Fr Richard's sermon from this morning.
6th After Trinity Covid Period
These past months have been difficult ones, this is the first time for 100 years that the world has been rocked by a pandemic of such a scale, and people are feeling the strain, not least because lives have been changed so drastically and it isn’t clear how or when they can be changed back.
It seems a long time ago now, but actually before the covid outbreak we were not exactly sailing along as a world – the UK was bitterly divided over the exit from the EU, and the world generally had it many problems of war, disease, corruption, injustice and inequality, and anger over climate change. It is easy to think as some do that this is a peculiar generation, that the world has somehow taken an unprecedented turn for the worse. But St Paul writing in Romans reminds us “ that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now”. From the creation Paul argues humanity has followed its own path, what he calls the way of the flesh, human weaknesses of sin and greed and selfishness, not the way of God of the spirit, only which can lead to healing, peace, and the protection and nurturing of the weak and helpless. Indeed in his own time Paul knew how the church suffered at the hands of the waning Roman Empire, persecution came from all sides, and this infant church was losing all its initial leaders who had known and lived with Jesus during his earthly ministry to martyrdom or age. They struggled to keep his message alive, in no small part concerned as years passed and what they had understood to be his imminent return to judge the earth and being in the kingdom, failed to happen.
But Paul says “ I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Paul was when writing this Epistle coming to the end of his ministry and his life. He was moving toward Rome where he would be martyred, and he was a man who had personally given and suffered so much for the faith – few knew more than Paul about the cost of discipleship. And yet he says ; we who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience”
We have not been singled out in this generation, in fact we run a danger I think of overlooking the many blessings and graces granted to us in this generation. And as our Gospel this morning reminds us, there is good and bad around, but it is how we live with the challenges, how we respond to this gift of life, these opportunities to help build a better world what Christians call the kingdom of God. We will give an account of how we managed our gifts and blessings, let’s pray moaning and self-pity aren’t the reasons we proffer for failing to live up to our calling and thinking ourselves hard done by.
I said a couple of weeks ago that the anger and energy of young people who feels the world must change, and they have been handed a singularly bad hand, was both uncomfortable but valuable. And I think that is right, but there are pitfalls to relying on anger for the impetus in our lives. I was sent a wonderful little instagram post recently which showed an early picture of some children in 1900. When they were 14 the world collapsed into a War which killed 30 million many of them little older than them. When they were 18 Spanish flu kille more people globally than even the War managed. When they were 30 facism was rising, Nazis took control of Germany, and when they were 39 a second War gripped the world killing over 60 million, destroying the majority of the wealth the world had amassed in centuries. In their 50’ and 60’s they saw war in Korea, in Vietnam, and for those who managed to get to 80 they saw the rise of a retro-virus called AIDS which wiped out young people for decades until treatment was found.
What we are leaving out here of course is the good that happened too, and much did, and often in direct response to evil. Gradually the world was building institutions of peace, poverty and disease were being challenged, although still unequal the world contained at the end of their lives far fewer in absolute poverty than ever before. We abolished in much of the world the death penalty, corporal punishment and recourse to the law became more widely available than ever. All this in degrees of imperfection we know, but this world is not without hope as St Paul knew – we look around as see people fighting injustice, inequality, poverty, racism, homophobia and sexism. We see people march to protect the needs of this fragile world, against waste, pollution and the deadly effects of consumerism and greed. Modern day ideas, but still ones that I see as Gospel, as building up the kingdom of God in our own time and in a godly way.
No, be angry if it is realistic and leads to good, but we are one generation in so many who have our challenges and our struggles, but like the others we have our hope, and our dreams and we know as Mother Julian always reminded us that ‘ all will be well, and all manner of things will be well’. Nothing indeed compares to the glories which hare to come. Amen