Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘How long, O God?’
After thinking about the lectionary readings today, I would like to pose some questions. I don’t think, if we’re being honest with ourselves, that there are easy answers to some of the problems that the Bible poses and I’m not going to propose any either, so I apologise in advance for being a bit of a downer.
This year, we’ve all been inundated with stories of grace and selfishness, injustice and kindness. We’ve seen stories on the front page of newspapers of teenagers complaining that they didn’t get to wear their dream formal dress because of lockdowns while the second page showed us photos of cities in flames as people protested for their rights for their democracy, safety or equality. We had people saying that social isolation is a “human rights abuse” while police knelt on people’s necks for being born black.
Meanwhile, in one of our readings today, Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Everywhere we look, we can point at people who would seem to only see the differences between themselves and others, who would appear, by their actions, to neither acknowledge God nor to love their neighbour. How do we love our neighbour the racist cop? The person who refuses to believe in Covid-
How do we love our God and our neighbour in an increasingly angry, dangerous, lawless and unfair world?
In one of the readings today, Jesus is showing off his knowledge of the Torah – he wrote it, after all – and answers the Pharisees who are trying to trick him in such a way that “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day no one dared to ask him any more questions”.
This passage follows shows Jesus “silencing” the Sadducees with his teaching and the story implies that the rival gang have turned up to show off how clever they are, but come away too embarrassed to ask Jesus any more questions because they don’t know if they’re going to understand his answers.
Indeed, There there are a number of times in the Bible when Jesus needs to explain his words to his audience, or they don’t understand what he is trying to tell them.
How do we cope with a God who confuses us?
There aren’t that many people who God talks to personally in the Bible. Before the appearance of Jesus, God intervenes in human lives selectively, sometimes appearing in dreams and visions, sometimes giving messages and promises. One of the few people who God “knows face to face” is Moses, who spends time alone with God and is treated like a friend. The reading from Deuteronomy records Moses’ death, on the edge of the land that God has promised to his people, after 40 years of wandering in the desert.
How do we deal with a God who disappoints us?
How long, O God?
The sufferings of human life are manifold and injustice is rife. We have to live with heartbreak, loneliness, sadness, sickness, confusion and poverty. We are often misunderstood and misunderstand others and cause pain, either deliberately or accidentally.
The motivations for these things are sometimes beyond our control and often impossible to understand. The Bible gives us guidance in the way we are to live in the person of Jesus but we all know that sometimes that fails us too. Sometimes we can only hold onto the knowledge that Jesus has walked alongside us, that we are deeply loved and that we continue to be forgiven every time we fail.
Can the world be a better place?
Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica record his delight in those who shared his faith. In the midst of our sufferings and failings, we are reminded that there are those amongst us who act with great love, kindness and grace. They inspire us that the world can be a better place and that we can make our small sphere more just, equal and hopefully uplifting for those around us. The hope we have in Christ can be reflected in our world as it could be, if we just make the effort to build a fairer and more equal world. Amen.