Sunday, July 12, 2015

Who will show us any good?

Regular readers of this blogling will note that the themes here are similar to the themes of earlier posts. I don't really make much in the way of an apology for that because it was writing this sermon that inspired development in what I have written so far as I try to understand better how Christians are to fit in a Post-Christian society. Goodness is a vital topic for Christians to understand so I do try to understand it and hope that the reader will travel with me too.

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

How do you react when someone comes up to you and says, “it’s a terrible world, isn’t it?” Do you agree with them, or do you have another answer?

We humans do have a tendency to put things into one of two boxes. Some things go into the “good” box, and other things go into the “bad” box. Happiness, joy and love, you’ll agree, belong in the “good” box while sadness, misery and hatred belong in the “bad” box. That sounds quite reasonable.

Which box does stealing belong in? Most people would say, “in the bad box”. Stealing is a sin according to the law of God, but what if you’re stealing bread because you’re starving? What if you’re stealing bread to feed your starving child? Is stealing right then?

You’ve probably met difficult questions like that before. There are many, many moral dilemmas that we face either hypothetically or in reality. They are hard questions and they challenge our ideas of what is right and what is wrong. Yet, we need to know what is good and what is bad if we are to find God. Why’s that?


God is good. In fact, God is what it means to be good. Everything that God says or does is, by definition, good. So, if we want what is good, we must seek God first so that we can find true goodness. What is wrong pulls us away from God. This is why when we sin, we must repent, i.e. we must turn back to God in order to find goodness.

When we try to separate goodness from God, we run into all kinds of problems. If we don’t get goodness from God, where do we get it from? Do we get it from the Law? A good citizen obeys the Law, but it was only following orders that ran the Concentration Camps. If a law turns out to be a bad law, then following it cannot be good. It is possible for laws to be bad, but then we Christians know that there is a higher law that goes beyond any human law.

Our Lord offers this challenge to us, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We will not be allowed into Heaven just by following the laws of the land. We have to follow the law of the Kingdom of God! That means turning to God first to see what His law really is and how it works with our human law.

Above all things, we need to operate with love, and that means careful thought and consideration before we act. We need to see what the real problem is before we go in all guns blazing. It is often not right to oppose an unjust law by reacting with anger and indignation. Too often we protest loudly with banners waving, making a loud noise and being angry. However, it is often more productive to see how we can change the law, by thinking about why the law is there, what drives it and seeing where the injustice really is. If we really know what the Church teaches, then we should be able to apply it with reason and care and, above all, Love.


The fundamental mistake that Society makes is to assume that Goodness can ever be separated from God. We need to look to God to find His goodness in all things, even when things look dark and horrible. His goodness is there in the suffering in the world and it is only because His goodness is there that any good can come from our tears and toil. We see the people that we love grow ill and die and we say that this cannot be good. Yet without God, there is no hope at all for anyone who dies. We Christians can even dare to see good in death itself! When we trust that God has power over Life and Death, then even dying becomes a route to the good. That is why St Paul can say with authority, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”

Our righteousness must go beyond law. It must come directly from God and obedience to His will. This is the only way that goodness can be in the world, and the only way we can hope for good things to come.

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