Sunday, September 10, 2017

Legally helpless or helplessly legal?

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Toddlers fall over – a lot! They have a knack of finding precisely the wrong moment, the wrong place, and the wrong situation to fall over, bump their heads and/or graze their knee. Lots of tears, lots of cuddles, lots of trying to kiss it better.

Do you expect the law of Gravity to help out and make the knee better? Well, why not?


The law of Gravity says that things fall down: apples, porcelain vases, jammy toast (jam side-down, of course) and toddlers. Yet, the law of Gravity is not Gravity itself. It isn’t the equations on a bit of paper that make things fall down – it’s Gravity. The laws of Gravity are just what we have written down to describe what Gravity does. By reading these laws, we can indeed predict the terrible demise of Aunt Hilda’s priceless Ming Vase, we can predict the tides, and we can even send a man to the moon using the laws that we have deduced from what we have seen. But the laws do nothing in themselves. The law of Gravity is powerless to help those who suffer from a fall.

The Law of Gravity walks by, utterly unable to help the one who has fallen and lies damaged.


The Law of the Land is based on the Moral Law which tells us what it right and wrong. It is constantly being reviewed and changed in its search for true and proportionate justice. When the murderer kills the child, he gets twenty years in prison without parole. Justice is done, but the law does not bring the child back to life.

The Moral Law walks by, utterly unable to help those parents in their loss.


In each case, the Law is good: it shows us how things should be, allows us to predict and seek what is right, but it cannot get off the paper on which it is written to save us from the effects it describes. It shows us right from wrong: it does not make right that which is wrong.
How can right come from wrong?

It takes someone who is law abiding, and yet sees how to go beyond it, to reach out and pour wine and oil into the wounds: the oil of the Holy Ghost to cleanse and purify; the Blood of Christ to heal and make firm.

It is the call of the Church to be the Good Samaritan while the Law walks helplessly by. It is the call of the Church, well-versed in the Law, who must reach out to those whom life in this fallen world has cast to the ground. It is a Church, vilified by a self-righteous and law-obsessed Society, that is called to pour her Holy Sacraments into the wounds of those who would receive them.


We are the Church. We have our call. We must obey the Law of Love, for Love’s sake.

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