The readings on which this sermon is
be found at: http://web.me.com/frsparky/iWeb/r022.htm
s022e11 Good Friday Mt Pleasant 22/4/2011
‘I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the
In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.
(Fr Jim Cotter http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/)
I have begun to think that the image we, as the Church, portray of God
to the world, is someone who has a massive inferiority complex; a
divine being who thinks that heaven will cease to exist if there is
no-one worshipping. So God sends his Son to die on the
Cross so that
at least a few, otherwise nondescript, people will believe that he
exists and worship him. I mean, after all, we proclaim that
not worthy to gather up the crumbs under your table’ most every time we
worship! And I thought, if I were in God’s shoes, I’d like
Age people every time, at least they don’t endlessly put themselves
down or put down others.
It has come to me with some force in recent times how some ‘christians’
are so critical, judgemental, and demeaning of others.
Because of the
earthquake, there are lots of groups and organisations who are looking
for premises to rent. The local ‘Kids First’ has begun
using the hall
facilities of one of our churches for their daily sessions.
has struck me how accepting, non-judgemental and affirming of others
this secular organisation is. They exist to enable each
become all that they can be. And it is precisely the same in most
‘Christ died for our sins’, so some ‘christians believe that God
forgives us even though we have done nothing whatsoever to merit such
love, but only because we believe this. God loves us - and
those who similarly haven’t done anything to merit such love, but
actually couldn’t care less and get on with life and
folk I know of, are only too well aware of their shortcomings yet
interestingly, most people also say that if they had their time over
again, they wouldn’t change anything, even ‘christians’.
And I have to say that if we only love God because God loves us first,
then, as Jesus said, how are we better than Gentiles and
if God only loves us because we believe God exists and love God in
return, how is God better than a Gentile and a sinner? So
cannot be about granting us forgiveness and so getting us to love God,
or Jesus, getting us to believe in God, or Jesus. And so,
use the cross as the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for humanity,
giving others no spiritual option but to believe. This is
And if God sent Jesus to die a horrible death in order to attract
followers, then God has some serious psychological and personality
problems and needs therapy urgently. I have worked in a
hospital and it is no wonder there are some screwed up individuals when
they imitate such a ‘god’ as this! Let me say that ordinary
find the conception of God sending his son Jesus to die on the Cross to
forgive a few select people their sins as utterly macabre and pointless.
And recently I had cause to say that a ‘god’ that made an earthquake
happen because the divine wasn’t getting enough attention is no better
than a petulant child having a tantrum because he or she wasn’t getting
his or her own way. One doesn’t humour a petulant child,
worship a petulant child.
And it makes me wonder, of what earthly or heavenly use is it to God to
forgive us our sins anyway? Why is it so important to God
only come to heaven recognising how grateful we should be for God’s
forgiveness that Jesus was sent to die a horrible death on a
It seems to me that actually such a ‘god’ is less forgiving than we are.
God gave us brains to use, yet it seems the church teaches that God
punishes people who come to different conclusions to us.
God gives us
hormones, then it seems some people in the church believe they should
punish people who find their hormones take over their (early)
God created people of all hues and cultures but it seems the church
teaches that God really only likes white people brought up speaking the
Queen’s English, with proper table manners and men with short
God created gay and lesbian persons yet, if you were to believe some
church people, God then forbids them to show their intimate affections
to the person they choose.
It seems that despite the rhetoric God doesn’t love some people as they
are, only as they measure up to ‘our’ standards.
One of the well known stories Jesus told was about the servant who was
forgiven the enormous debt he owed his lord, who then went out and
didn’t forgive his colleague the trifling amount his colleague owed
him. Now if we are ‘christians’ we ‘know’ that we have been
and the cost of that forgiveness. The story tells us that
we need to
be equally forgiving of others who don’t measure up to our expectations
- not that we go around condemning others who don’t believe like us,
worship like us or are intimate when and with people we don’t
approve. The Cross ought to motive us to be forgiving of
challenge, marginalise or alienate others.
But, no matter how much you and I might be forgiving personally, in the
big picture it is not going to make a skerrick of difference if the
church as a corporate entity blithely condemns everyone who
conform to their teachings. If the ‘church’ doesn’t
reflect who God is, of what earthly or heavenly use are my or your poor
Some time ago I had a conversation about sin, and the person was
nervous about me ignoring sin. And this inspired me to say: ‘I
would respond that I am far more nervous ignoring evil than
was evil, evil masquerading as devotion to God that put (and continues
to put) Jesus on the Cross .. not sin. My mind goes to John
'They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is
when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering
worship to God. And they will do this because they have not
Father or me.' By focussing on sin (inevitably personal -
what we do
with our genitalia) the church hides her corporate evil.’
And of course the church does put people out of her
wasn’t all that long ago that a woman who had left her husband for
whatever reason was automatically denied communion, in the name of
‘god’. People who are openly gay or lesbian continue to be
excommunicated in the name of ‘god’.
And as I think about this more it seems to say something about the
cross and forgiveness. The Cross is not about forgiveness
of sin but
actually shows us the nature of evil which cannot be
Jesus says ‘Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be
forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be
forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.’
12.32) Those who would speak against the work of God who
all, are essentially evil, and ipso facto cannot be forgiven, because
they cannot forgive others for being themselves.
When St Paul talks about the forgiveness of OUR sins, he is actually
not being disingenuous; he actually does include himself. He, of
people, knows about the evil of religious discrimination, for he
regularly tells his readers how complicit he was in religious
persecution before he met the risen Lord.
‘Christ died for our sins’ means that whatever separates us from God,
and whatever separates everyone else from God has been done away
with. In the end it doesn’t matter whether ‘sin’ is a human
or of divine origin, it has been done away with.
And this is not a new thing. Isaiah, long before Jesus was
say of the religious of his day (and especially notice how he addresses
them): ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the
teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is
multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt
offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the
blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you
come to appear
before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts
bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to
moon and sabbath and calling of convocation -- I cannot endure solemn
assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed
my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary
them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes
even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are
full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do
good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for
the widow.’ Isaiah 1.10-17
He talks of the religious as the rulers of Sodom and he speaks of
defending (not criticising, challenging or demeaning) the orphan and
the widow, those who have lost their heavenly parent.
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