Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's an ill wind...

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul's Church, Swanscombe on 15th October 2006, based on St Mark x.17-31.

That advert's on telly again.

A man lies beside a pool
on a sunny day.

One of those fluffy, shiny women
walks up to him with a drink
and sits down on the sun-bed
next to him.

He smiles at her,
she smiles at him,
reaches down and picks up
a packet of cigarettes
which she offers to him.

He takes one,
she takes one,
both light up,
and then the Narrator starts up
- an Alvar Liddell soundalike -
"cool, fresh, relaxing Llama cigarettes
- you know they're good for you."

Seen that one?


Well, perhaps not recently.

This could have been an advert
from the 1960s,
couldn't it?

Those were the days
when nobody was without
a cigarette in the hand
- it was fashionable,
and it did make people feel great.

Now that we have seen too many people,
our fathers and mothers,
husbands and wives
grandfathers and grandmothers
die from lung cancer,
do we know that smoking is
a highly damaging activity.

We may have thought
that it was good for us once,
but not now.

Certainly we wouldn't see
an advert like that these days,
would we?

Or would we?


How do we know that
something that is advertised as good
really is good?

After all,
the job of an advert is
to persuade people that
they cannot do without
a certain product.

What would be the point
of adverts which say:

"Glisty Hair Cream
-turns your hair blue and makes it fall out"


"look worse with Slick
- the mascara that makes you look as if
yo've gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson"


"Woohoo probiotic yoghurt
-Woohoo glues you to the loo"?

If adverts are designed to mislead,
who do we know the truth?

Remember "Go to work on an egg"?

Yet what happened when Edwina Currie
wen to work on eggs?

What once was good for us,
is regarded with suspicion and fear.

What is good for us, isn't.

How do we know what is good?


You push your way through the crowd of Jews,
fighting to get to the front to see Jesus.

Your head burns with that question
that you've allways been dying to ask Him.

Finally, you're through the crowd,
you fall at the Lord's feet.

"Good Teacher,"
you gasp, breathlessly,
"Good teacher..."

Jesus fixes you with His penetrating gaze,
seeing easily into your very soul.

"Why do you call me 'good'?"

Well? How are you going to answer that one?


Of course, Jesus is good.

Isn't it obvious?

But how do we know this?

How do we know that
He isn't some charlatan,
some hoaxer out to mislead the people?

Because He isn't.

That's what belief is all about.

We believe that Jesus is the Lord,
and the Lord is God and God is good.

As our Lord Jesus Christ says,
"No-one is good but One,
that is, God."

So "goodness" is something that God is.

It's a quality of the God Whom we worship,
and it's a quality that He has built
into His Creation.

On the Sixth Day of Creation,
before He goes for His nap,
God sees all that He has made,
and behold, it is very good.


This means that everything
that we see around us
has some goodness in it.

This is usually more obvious
in landscapes that make us go "ah!"
or the great cathedrals that make us go "ooh!",
or in kittens which make us go "aw!"

But equally so,
there is goodness in things
that we don't associate with goodness.

Is there goodness in the sight
of the litter-strewn streets of Swanscombe?

Is there goodness when
a lioness attacks and kills a zebra
to feed her hungry cubs?

Is there goodness
when someone we love
passes from this life?

God sees everything He has made,
and behold,
it is very good.

So why is this hard to believe?


"Good Teacher,
what must I do that
I may inherit Eternal Life?"

"Go sell all your possessions,
then take up your cross and follow me."

Do you follow the young man
as he turns away
realising that he cannot give away
all that he has?


Let's face it,
we're just no good at doing good,
and when Jesus challenges us
to do something worthwhile,
we just cannot bring ourselves
to rise to that challenge.

We indulge in behaviour
which goes against that which
God requires of us.

This is certainly not good.

We make the greatest errors.

Each one of us has,
deliberately or unwittingly,
hurt others,
sometimes deeply.

The world is full of misery
caused by people
doing what they think is good,
though frequently,
some people's understanding of 'good'
seems suspect.

There is pain
and death in this world,
all caused by human beings,
some of whom are trying to do 'good'
and yet are not doing good.



But St Paul says:
we know that all things
work together for good
to them that love God,
to them who are the ones
called according to His purpose.

That's worth repeating.

We know that all things
work together for good
to them that love God,
to them who are the ones
called according to His purpose.

That's us!

We Christians try to do good,
and follow God,
but we fail.

But whatever our failures,
whenever our goodness falls short,
whenever we have hurt another,
God wrests that away
from the Evil One
and uses it for good.

this good is often difficult to see,
but how much goodness
are we now seeing springing
from the horrible memories
of the Holocaust?

"For man,
this is impossible,
for God,
all things are possible."

God uses those times
when we don't do good
to work His wonders,
but this doesn't mean that
these situations are
devoid of pain or suffering.

true goodness
involves pain and suffering,
but that pain and suffering
isnt' the purpose of goodness.

If we truly look towards God,
then however much we are in pain,
we can be sure that we will find
true goodness.

If we are to embrace
that which is truly good,
then we must be prepared also
to embrace the cross
upon which we will be crucified
with the Lord.


"Why do you call me 'good'?"
Jesus asks you.

What's your answer?

No comments: