Sunday, July 24, 2016

Complaint about complaint

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

How often do you complain?

In this day and age, we seem to have a lot to complain about. There is a lot on our minds both locally and nationally. We have an idea of what it means for life to be right, and life doesn’t fit that. What do we do? We find a friend, sit down and, as the old phrase goes, put the world to rights.

We could, of course, do something about the way things are and work hard to put the world to rights. That would surely be better than complaining about it, wouldn’t it?

There is a problem, though. Can you see it?


Whose rights are we following when we put the world to rights? That’s the question we need to think about when we are tempted to complain.

St Benedict comes down very hard on people who spend their lives complaining. He sees it as a vice that needs to be stamped out thoroughly. He isn’t talking about the type of complaining which we find in the Bible when people complain to God. He isn’t talking about the type of complaining when we bring important issues to our Governors and Leaders. He’s talking about a type of complaining that exists in a society but behind closed doors.

You see, complaint behind closed doors becomes conspiracy, and conspiracy ends up becoming something dreadful. The latest atrocities in the world are caused by people who believe that the world should be aligned to their way of thinking and, through harbouring complaint in their lives, have made their actions the be-all and end-all of their existence. If we have a burning desire for the world to be the way we think it should, then we must listen to St Paul’s words:

“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

The fact of the matter is that the World is as it is. God has created it and human beings are the ones who look after it and destroy it in seemingly equal measure. We destroy it when we seek to bend the world to our will. We look after it if we keep it along the same lines as our Creator intended. We may have legitimate cause to complain but, when we remember that God is really in control and that no Evil really can do us any permanent damage, there is nothing to worry about.

We must weep with those who weep, cry out and lament loudly. We must complain about the injustice in the world, cry out and protest loudly. God will hear us! Our Lord Jesus lives and dies so that our lamentations from the deepest pit are heard, but His death and resurrection brings us out of that pit through His love. Likewise, we must also work hard to communicate the Love of God first and foremost of all. We need to work to end evil before it even begins, and it begins in ourselves.

If we want to work to make the world a better place, we need to begin with repentance and seeking after God. We will make the world a better place if we root out from our lives all sin.

If we believe that this world is going to Hell, then we can pull it back by leading lives of goodness, truth and beauty. We may complain and complain legitimately, but we must seek the solution of that complaint in God within ourselves.

Above all, we must not let the Church become a den of complaint. We are the Church and we seek to bring God’s blessing on the world, not be a curse. We may react against unjust laws which fallible governments pass, but these laws will pass away – God’s love won’t.

When we’re tempted to complain, let us remember St Paul’s words to us: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

We belong in Heaven, and we can bring this world closer to it, not by living our lives in complaint, but by seeing through that complaint the way of God in this world.

What do we really have to complain about?

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