Sunday, June 27, 2021

Putting things wrong

Propers for the fourth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon for the fourth Sunday after Trinity and within the Octave of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

St John the Baptist cries out that every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain. He's not the person that you would want to hear while walking the glorious hills and vales of Yorkshire. A landscape is often more beautiful and inspiring because of its hills and valleys. Is St John really suggesting that we take a bulldozer and road rollers to the lot?


Of course St John is referring to preparing the way of the Lord. There should be no obstacle for anyone to come to the Lord Jesus but often there is. Often there is something that looks insurmountable like a vast mountain ridge that will prevent people from coming to God.

Often that mountain has been put there, not by God, but by other people who have moved it out of their way to Jesus. They have moved it out of their way and into someone else's. In making their way straight, they have made someone else's way crooked. 

This is all evidence for one simple fact: human beings cannot truly put things right. We will always put things right in one place, only for it to cause trouble somewhere else. The reason is that our judgement for what is right has been impaired by our fall from God. That judgement has not been obliterated: we can still know what is good and what isn't, but our ability to put things right is deeply flawed.

We try to do good but we fail because we try to do good without God. 


Our Lord tells us that if we do not judge, we will not be judged. God is judge indeed but he judges to put things right, not to send people to Hell. If we try to take the judge's wig from God, then we will send ourselves to Hell because we are worshipping our own right and wrong, not the true good that comes from God.

We see this very much in our society at the moment. There is much judgement and little forgiveness. We can say something supremely stupid on social media in our teens and, twenty years later, we can be refused a job even if we have repented of of our stupidity publically. In our attempts to right the wrongs of society, we end up being more judgemental than the society we condemn. 

And Jesus tells us to put mercy first. Before judgement, there must be mercy. With judgement there must be forgiveness. Forgiveness does not stop the need to accept the consequences of a bad action, but it puts an end to that bad action.

As human beings, our ability to do good and judge good is flawed. Our Lord is clear that, for this reason, we need to cultivate both mercy and forgiveness. This will inevitably lead to suffering for Evil will always seek to ensure that human beings judge each other harshly and without full possession of the facts. Our suffering is a consequence of the evil that our first parents brought into Creation.


This makes Mercy and Forgiveness unappealing because they potentially let those who do wrong off the hook. Mercy and Forgiveness make the possibility of being hurt greater and more severe. They are costly and agonising.

But we know that! 

We know the cost of Mercy and Forgiveness. We see that cost all around us in our Church. We see Our Saviour nailed to the cross, not only crying out for our forgiveness but also that we must dare to be like Him.


Hunan beings will claim that we can be good without God. This is true. The Atheist can be kinder, more loving and more generous than the Christian. But Goodness is more than just an action. Goodness is found only in God.

We can certainly try and exalt valleys and lay mountains low but we will do so with bulldozers and cranes, and the result will be ugly. Instead of the rolling hills of green will be car parks of grey.

Far better that we learn to be good at the feet of God and allow Him to put things right than for us to put things wrong.

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