Tuesday, 30 November 2010

1st Sunday of Advent 28 Nov 2010 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 28.11.10 Rebuilding

From the time of the first sin God has been trying to put back together the broken pieces of humanity.

Even with the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Pentecost and all the miracles and inspiration He has provided over 2000 years we still have not got it right.

If it were just a matter of putting a broken object back together it would be easy enough. A passive object offers no resistance. But human beings are another matter!

God can do all things, but it is difficult even for Him to get the human race to cooperate with His plans. The same trouble that caused the first sin is the same thing preventing the full reconciliation. Mankind has been resistant to the grace of God.

Because we have sinned we find it hard to give it up. It enslaves us, and we have to be prised free.

When we sin our judgment is distorted. Even when we know to the last detail what is required we still don't want to do it. Even if we know that it would make us happy we can still hold out. Our judgment is distorted, and we cannot see our way clearly.

We lack faith, trust, humility, obedience. We still sin even if we do believe all these things. Only by divine help can we break free completely.

So the Advent season comes upon us: a reminder to consider the great plan of salvation; going back to chapter one, and realigning ourselves. A season of repentance and preparation.

A time for us to stop resisting His graces.

So we ask Him to come, not just His second coming, but before that, to come and break down our pride, our stubbornness so we can see straight, live straight, be totally accepting of His grace, willing to cooperate with Him.

Come, Lord Jesus, fill me with truth, the attractiveness of Your way.

The only way I can break free from my distorted vision is to see something better which He has. The precious pearl, the treasure in the field, for which we would gladly trade the life we live now, stunted as it must be.

We would do this automatically if only we could see it. This is what we mean when we say, Come, Lord Jesus. Make it so obvious that we cannot miss it, even with pride and stubbornness.

His coming is moving closer in terms of time, insofar as the years pass. But He is coming closer also in that His influence will increase, enabling us to act differently and to restore what was lost, to restore the lost Eden, to have at least a share of heaven on earth.

We see then that Advent is part of a long process, which though dogged by much frustration, does head in a straight line to the final consummation of all things in Christ.

Indeed may He come, and without delay.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Last Sunday after Pentecost 21 Nov 2010 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 21.11.10

When we talk with one another about the state of the world the question arises: is this the end? Can it get any worse than this?

A bit of historical perspective will enable us to see that previous generations must have also asked the same question. Probably every generation has had enough things going wrong to be able to put those questions. Things have seemed black many times before this; but the end ‘was not yet’.

As for our time we certainly have some of the ingredients of the last days: increasing rebelliousness against God and His Church; increasingly blatant immorality, particularly sodomy (always a sign of degeneration); people have itching ears for new doctrines (Christianity is perceived as old hat).

Can things get worse? Yes, they could and they might. Predictions of evil can always be overruled if there is sufficient repentance and reparation. If everyone in the world went down on their knees there would be no need for chastisements, plagues, and other horrors to come.

God sends these things (or threatens them) not because He likes to punish us, but by way of claiming our attention.

He is trying to impress upon us how much we need Him, and how wrong things will go, and wronger still, if we do not seek to be reconciled with Him. The various images of Scripture threatening dire punishments are attempts to bring home to us that we have a vital need for God, and if we do not possess Him we will suffer agony.

After a certain point, if we deprive ourselves of God’s grace, there will be a reaction. There will be trouble in this life and the next. There will be anguish and distress as the soul realizes its loss, like the pain of grief multiplied a thousand times.

Many people have come to repentance in all these misfortunes over the centuries, but we have never managed to convert the whole world or even the majority of it. The message of repentance is not a bestseller; there is tremendous resistance to the Gospel, even though it be Good News.

People often prefer to remain in darkness and misery than change what they know.

For our part we never let up on praying for conversion of sinners and imploring God’s mercy on the world.

We deserve to be wiped out many times over by now, but still in His mercy and patience He gives us more time to get things right.

We thank Him for the time but we also gently remind Him that He has promised to come again and wind everything up!

We must not let the disintegration of moral values around us in any way loosen our own desire for holiness of life, nor of its absolute necessity.

The temptation is that when we see others relaxing their moral grip and giving way to things that they would have once been appalled by – the temptation is to join them; throw off the yoke of obedience we have been carrying for years and join the ‘progress’ to the new ways.

We must hold firm and thus be light in the darkness for others to see; a voice in the wilderness for them to hear. We are the leaven in the bread, the mustard seed that will expand to cover the whole world.

Confronted with bad news some will turn to the pursuit of more pleasure. Turn up the sound to drown out the unpleasant reality.

It is better to face reality head-on. It is the only way to discover the truth. If we read the signs of the times, realized our total absolute need for God and turn to Him at every opportunity then we have peace of mind, and we will pull back from the brink.

Can it get any worse? Yes, but it can also get better. We must make it so.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

25th Sunday after Pentecost 14 Nov 2010 Sermon

25th Sunday after Pentecost (6th Sunday after Epiphany readings) 14.11.10 Euthanasia

The Gospel of the mustard seed: small beginnings for a great reality. The kingdom of God (or the Church) started out very small but has become very big.

A lot of actions small in themselves, but added together over time produce an effect beyond what you might expect. If the Church has grown this far despite all the sins etc, imagine what we could have become if we had trusted fully!

Most of the time we live in trust; we do not see the future, not even as far as tomorrow. Yet we believe that if we act according to the will of God we will see better times. One step at a time and eventually we will have walked a long way.

There is one particular example of this trustful stepping forward that I want to dwell on today, because of its current urgency to our state (South Australia) – euthanasia.

If we live in daily trust of God’s providence, asking for our daily bread, we should also die in trust of His providence. The matter of death can be a great anxiety for us as we occasionally think of our own death. When will it happen? How? How much pain will there be? What happens after death? And so on.

It is an even more mysterious matter than most of the things we encounter. All the more reason we should delve deeper into our faith and entrust ourselves into God’s hands. Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit!

As God has decreed when I should be born, so I leave it to Him to decide when (and all other details) I shall die. It is His decision far more than it is mine.

So we have always had (in the Church, and before that in the people of Israel) a sensitive reserve about the manner of death. Look at Job: how he endured the loss of everything but never presumed to take his own life, nor ask others to do it for him.

He trusted during the time of darkness and all was restored to him.

So all will be restored to those who die in the Lord’s keeping. Not necessarily the material restoration as Job experienced, but more likely the joy of eternal life, the next phase of the gift of life which we are preparing for here on earth.

But today many do seek refuge in death rather than in God. Euthanasia is just glorified murder and/or suicide. Almost everyone disapproves of these things, when so called. But somehow murder and suicide in the face of physical or emotional suffering is proposed as acceptable.

What is being attempted in the push towards euthanasia is a redefinition of murder. It is OK [they are saying] to murder sometimes - if the one to be murdered asks for it, or wishes it, or seems to be in intolerable suffering.
But murder (the taking of innocent life) is always wrong. If a thing is wrong in its essence it is always wrong. Good intentions cannot make it right.

The absolute value of each person must be defended at all times. We cannot kill people according to characteristics, such as race or colour. We all understand that. But neither can we murder people who are perceived to be unhappy. Not even if they ask us to kill them.
(Same sort of logic with suicide. You can't kill yourself because do not own yourself. You have a sacred value which you might discount or deny, but cannot remove.)

We encourage each other to take this nobler view of self (which is only the truth). And of other people in the same light. We are subjects not objects.

The value of a life is not in economic output; nor in ability; but simply being a human person makes one God’s property.

In short, euthanasia is either murder or suicide, and can never be justified. Instead we must simply put ourselves into God’s hands. He looks after everything else; He can also handle our deaths.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

24th Sunday after Pentecost 7 Nov 2010 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost (5th Sunday after Epiphany readings)7.11.10 Good and Evil

It is a problem for many that evil seems to flourish in the world and evildoers do not drop dead in the street, or not straight away at least. Sin seems to go unpunished for long periods of time and even never to be punished in many cases.

The real life solution is not as simple as in the movies, where in a 90 minute film the bad are punished and the good rewarded. Such rewards and punishments are always put into very visible and material categories. The bad are either killed or imprisoned; the good find wealth, marriage, promotion etc.

God’s way of resolving things works on the same principle only it needs more than 90 minutes to sort everything out. There are lots of factors we don't see or can’t understand. There are things that will need more than a lifetime to sort out.

God does hear the cry of the poor. All injustices will be set right; all evil behaviour will be dealt with; nothing is left hanging in the Kingdom of God. He knows when a sparrow falls from the sky. Nothing involving any person would escape His attention.

The psalms and other wisdom literature of the Old Testament ask repeatedly: When, O Lord, will You act? How long must we put up with these injustices? Yet the same literature also expresses humility in the face of the infinite wisdom of God (cf Job); and acknowledges that He has ways of getting what He wants.

We entrust it all to Him. It may take centuries or millennia; it does take in billions of people. Only God could sort out such complexity and He is doing so.

He lets the wheat and the tares exist side by side, not immediately separating them but promising to do so at the Last Judgment.

Why would God not remove evildoers straightaway? Because He wants them to repent, and for that to happen He has to give them time. If He removed every evildoer at the first chance we would all have been wiped out by now. He has to give a certain leeway of time so that people have time to see the wrongness of their ways and come to a new heart. And this has to be repeated for each generation, which has to learn it all over again.

What does it mean for us, trying to do the right thing in a world where there are a lot of bad and dangerous people around? We have to work and pray for the conversion of evildoers. We have to desire their conversion, not their destruction. We do not wish enemies destroyed but wish them friends.

We must avoid the temptation to compromise with evil. Surrounded by it we can relax the standards. We must oppose evil just as we do now on the euthanasia issue. But without condemning others.
We must use the time that we have to make things as good as they can be.

Time is our friend insofar as we are in a time of mercy and have the chance for conversion.

However, it is good also to pray for a shortening of the time, as we do in Advent. We don't want the time for mercy to be cut short but we do want the Lord to come.

Amidst all the things we don't understand we can see some things clearly.
It is better to be good than evil.
It is good to be good, for its own sake, and not just because it brings a reward, or evil a punishment.
The more good people around the easier it is to change the bad ones.

May the Lord keep those whom He already has and gain those He still seeks.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Feast of Christ the King 31 Oct 2010 Sermon

Christ the King 31.10.10 Unity

People often wish we could all live in peace, acknowledging that it is a pity that we have wars, genocide, racism etc... that we should all get along together. Just about everyone would agree with these sentiments.

We have events like the Olympic games, and other ceremonials (national days, military remembrance days) where we see displays symbolizing world peace, These events inspire us, with the right sentiments at least, but they tend to lack power. They don’t really make things better, apart from a few good intentions.

But this feast today, Christ the King is another matter. Here we have access to the real power to make things different. A life-changing power. Here we have contact with Someone who actually does unite us - the new Man, the new Adam, the source of a new humanity; reconciling us to the Father. And when united to this central figure we are automatically united with each other.

This feast gives us the sentiments – the desire for peace – but also the actual sacramental access to the grace which will make things different.

As we make contact with Christ we are given the power to love, to forgive, to help others; and to turn swords into ploughshares.

We experience a genuine change of heart, whereby we are not just living in peace (as in the mere absence of conflict) but genuine love of neighbour.

Christ breaks down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, between all races, and gathers together the scattered children of God. He is the peace between us.

The world is reluctant to acknowledge Him and will try just about any other solution first.

Some will propose Tolerance as the answer to all our troubles. ‘OK we are different but there is no harm in that provided we all leave each other alone.’ Tolerance may be better than killing each other but if we tolerate things which are objectively wrong, and which alienate us from God, then we cannot have a true peace.

Only in Christ are complete peace and unity found, because only He can be the link between divine and human - and without the divine the human is sunk.

The world will say: Oh yes, Jesus Christ is a good role model, but there are many others too. He is more than role model, and He is more than just another good man. He is the Saviour of the human race, and the only one at that. Only in Him is the human reconciled with the divine.

Are we imposing Him on others? Not by force. It is like coming across someone drowning and we say: if you want we can pull you out of the water. But we won’t force you. You have a choice; only if you want to live there is only one choice you can make.

This we say to the world: if you really want peace and unity, here is the only way: go down on your knees before your true King.

We are a long way from achieving this. Even in the Church, even among those who do believe in Him there is much conflict. In families, parishes, religious orders... people do not get along even if they have the same beliefs, hopes and values.

The difficulty of it just shows all the more how much we rely on Christ to give us the missing ingredient – His own love and power. To help us get over centuries of negativity.

At least as individuals we bring ourselves before Him; we offer Him homage; ask for His grace that will work in us from the inside, to take the poison out of our hearts, the anger and the bitterness; to enable us to be what we should have been all along.

May all humanity find salvation and peace in Him.