Sunday, August 22, 2021

Free Failing

Sermon for the twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Do you feel like a failure?

If so then it hurts to be asked why you think that, doesn't it?

Some people feel like a failure because everything seems to be going wrong. Others feel like a failure because they keep making matters worse. Others feel like a failure because they have not achieved what they burn to achieve. Others keep committing the same sin again and again and lose heart because they aren't stopping sinning.

A sense of failure can play havoc with our lives and we often wonder what's the point of carrying on when we make so much mess and hurt other people.

And it all looks much worse written down.


If someone were to present you with all your failures written down, the pain might be too much to bear. To see Life's F-grade staring you in the face seems to make it real, unmistakable, too true. Having your failures written down not only makes them real, it makes them permanent.

Just when you think that it's all too much to bear, St Paul wades in. "Oh no, not St Paul!" Yes, St Paul wades in and shows us how we have failed. Only he shows us how we have failed to understand failure. 


To see failure written down strips it of its full reality. The Ten Commandments are terrifying statements of God's will and they form the basis of our moral thinking, but they are flat - they don't have the full picture. Human beings have a tendency to have flat thinking where only that in black and white matters. By the letter of the Law we are condemned to death. Those who separate themselves from God, die.

And then Jesus comes along and says that He will not change a dot or tittle of the Law. Even He says that those who separate themselves from God will die.

St Paul tells us that Jesus' masterstroke is to give us His Spirit to draw us up from the page. In accepting the rule of Christ and in receiving His Spirit, we are drawn out of the page of our failures and given the fullness of His life.

St Paul testifies that this is true of himself: he once persecuted the Church of God and was responsible for the deaths of Christians but he is lifted from this failure into God's truth. The page is two-dimensional and we are not. The moral chaos of life causes us to stumble and fail, but the Spirit of God gives us the realisation that we are bigger and greater and more precious than our errors. 

Our failures do not stop us from being ministers of the New Testament, indeed, they show just how great God is and, further, how much more valued we are than what we have done. Our failures are two-dimensional; we are three-, four-, five-, six-, even possibly infinitely-dimensional in God.


We fail, sometimes so greatly that the very thought of our failure makes us question whether life is worth living. But, the Cross of Christ nails those failures to the page, His Resurrection lifts us up from the page, and His Spirit bears us up from the page. For nothing, nothing whatever, can stop us from being lovable and from being loved by God and in Him all our failures will be put right forever.

No comments: