Sunday, January 24, 2021

Angrily Unable

Propers for the third Sunday after Epiphany

Sermon for the third Sunday after Epiphany

The first few weeks of 2021 tell us a good deal about the state of our political health. It's not looking good. There's a lot of noise, a lot of recriminations, a lack of respect for those in political office. There is much anger.

Much of that anger comes from the fact that our politicians won't do as we tell them to do. Surely, we elect them on the basis that they represent us at the level of government. But often, we don't feel as if we are being represented. When the opposing party gains power, we become angry. Why?


Much of our anger comes from the fact that we feel powerless, that no-one is listening to us, that things we know to be wrong are happening but we can't stop them. The Twentieth Century has seen many dreadful instances of inhumanity committed against God's children that we cry, "no more!" We have learned to stand up and shout. We have learned to resist. We have learned that we can stand up to bullies.

This is all well and good, but is everyone we oppose really a bully? Is everyone whose politics we oppose really like Hitler?


Often we can see parallels with history and surmise that, if we do nothing, atrocities will happen again. "Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it," we say. This would be true if the conditions now are precisely the same as they were back then. But, no matter how proficient in history we think ourselves to be, our knowledge of the world is imperfect and we don't know all the facts. The future is not always going to be a complete repetition of the past. The temptation is to cling to our knowledge of history and be angry with those who don't see things the way we do. We are angry because we are powerless to make people know what we know.


We know how God wants us to be moral creatures, how we should revere life, how we should not tolerate the destruction of the innocent. Yet, the people in power seem utterly oblivious to the innocent and seek to put the rights of others above the needs of those who cannot speak for themselves. But they are in power and we are not. We become angry because we are powerless.


Our society is angry because we do not have the power to make things right. We can't heal the sick or let the oppressed go free. We can't admonish sinners or counsel the doubtful. We see Christian businesses suffer for holding Christian beliefs. We see Churches attacked for promoting good moral values and the worship of God. We see people who have nothing but distain for Christ come to power and influence and utter blasphemy upon blasphemy upon blasphemy.

And we become angry. And what does God do about it?

"Vengeance is mine," says the Lord.

And, to exact that vengeance, He gets Himself crucified.


St Paul says, "give place into wrath." That place is the cross. Our wrath comes from a lack of control. But God is in control.

If we berate our politicians for tolerating, or even promoting, the suffering of the innocent then we must remember that God tolerates the suffering of the innocent out of respect for all humanity. That does not mean that He actively wants the innocent to suffer but rather He, and only He, has the power to make that suffering more than worthwhile. His methods are far beyond our understanding and His love for every human being is beyond anything we can give.

We are utterly powerless to make this world a better place to live but that's a good thing because what we think is "better" is highly imperfect. If we want to make the world a better place then we need to start with oursrlves. If we want the world to be perfect then we need to be perfect first. 

Be angry and sin not.


The only way we can deal with the departure of politics from God's law is to recognise our limitations and do what we can. Once we have reached out limit, we must pray with tears and sorrow and let our impotence run its course. 

God's weakness is stronger than our strength. God's crucifixion is more glorious than our greatest achievement. In Him, the suffering of the innocent becomes their glory and the shame of those who caused it.


Be angry and sin not. Trust God to exact His vengeance in His way and know that justice will be done. Let us rejoice in our powerlessness rather than allow the Devil to use it to control us.

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