Thursday, 1 January 2015
4th Sunday of Advent 21 Dec 2014 Sermon
4th Sunday of Advent 21.12.14
We can take some comfort from the goodwill showed by people in Sydney and at other recent disasters. (Café siege, Sydney, Dec 2014).
There is a good and a bad aspect to this. The good aspect is that it shows people are capable of goodwill and generous compassion when sufficiently moved.
The bad aspect is that we seem to have reached a point of indifference to true religion. People have all sorts of different notions of death and life after death; and also of course of everyday morality.
This means that while there is sorrow over death (especially violent and unjust death) there is a very confused reaction, which is far short of what true repentance requires.
Feel-good ceremonies may be making matters worse. What we need is a large dose of clarity of thinking.
St John the Baptist described himself as a voice in the wilderness. He was, most of the time, a minority of one as far as telling the world what it needed to hear, but did not want to hear.
This is always the way for a true prophet, and John was the best of them all.
He should not have been lonely; everyone should have been agreeing with him. He spoke only the truth, and he offered the way to complete healing and restoration.
We also, as individuals and as the Church, can feel the same isolation.
Whenever we stand up for the truth we feel the chill winds of disapproval.
When it comes to the wrong thinking of the world we have to proclaim the truth, however unpopular.
And as we proclaim we also pray that the word will sink in and produce fruit – the fruit of repentance and conversion.
There are so many things that need to be prayed for, that it would take forever just to list them let alone to make the prayer.
Accordingly we might feel somewhat useless in terms of our ability to pray for any improvement in the world. Yet we must keep praying (and proclaiming).
For one thing, because it is the right thing, and therefore the best thing we can do.
For another thing because it is the way to success in building up the foundations on which other progress can be made.
Every little thing we can get right becomes a stepping stone to something else that can come right.
If you are praying in your house and I am praying in my house, it may seem to all of us that we are the only ones who think the way we do, but eventually we will have a convergence of prayer and things will start to move.
The modern term is ‘tipping point’ – a point where public opinion starts to change on a contentious topic. Pro-lifers refer to this in the battle against abortion. One day a majority of people will realize how appalling abortion is and change their ways. As happened with slavery.
This is levelling out the hills and valleys, as referred to by Isaiah, and then by John the Baptist.
The hills and valleys are the unhelpful twists and turns in human thinking whereby we have lost sight of the essential simplicity of the word of God.
God speaks; we listen and obey. It would be nice if this happened, but we have not reached such a profound level yet!
We have put up barriers to His word and made it harder for ourselves than it ever needed to be.
Now we can make it easier by applying simple obedience to God’s word on a daily basis.
It is the only way forward, however unlikely we might feel it to be.
We pray with the people who grieve the public disasters, and we pray also for them that they will see more clearly all the major issues about life, death, good and evil. That all may come to repentance and eternal life.