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s085e03 St Simon and St Jude Mothers' Union Western Area Festival 28/10/2003

Remember the prediction of the apostles "In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts." It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. Jude 18,19

When I went to look up the word scoff I didn't actually have my good dictionary with me. My little "Collins English Gem" has "taunt, mocking words" as descriptors. But when I think of the word "scoff" the phrase "scoff at the suggestion" immediately comes to mind &endash; to suggest that something is highly unlikely.

And I find this use of the word interesting, for I don't often hear many people who don't go to Church scoffing at things religious.

The people I most hear scoffing are those who scoff at the likelihood that God could be motivating and empowering someone else &endash; people who do not measure up, like the tax-collectors and sinners in the time of Jesus. And today I hear the scoffers similarly in the Church, those who scoff at the suggestion that God could call a gay man to be a Bishop in the Church. I mean I've been brought up to scoff at the suggestion that God could be empowering evangelicals, or anglo-catholics, or charismatics.

Those outside the church &endash; when they do scoff at the Church &endash; it is most often at the suggestion that we so readily and frequently portray that WE are the only ones empowered and motivated by God, and I think that we give them good reason.

We do well to be careful that we are on the right side of the fence, and make sure that we are not on the side where we have no difficulty justifying our dismissal of the gifts of other people using the Bible, the traditions of the Church, the Creeds or whatever other "authority" we choose.

Scoffers in the time of Jesus were the people who counted themselves as entirely religious and they had Jesus killed for associating with people other than themselves. In reality it is they who were the worldly people, the people we would be well advised to avoid - "hating even the tunic which is defiled by their bodies" - people who cause divisions.

Of late, I have frequently been reflecting on the man turned out of the wedding feast because he wasn't wearing a wedding garment. He obviously didn't want to be there, and he didn't want to be there, not because the King was there, but because others were there too. He was thrown out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, but of course he was weeping and gnashing his teeth inside, refusing to join in the celebrations with others.

At this time in our Anglican Communion we do well to remember that God will not have our eucharistic celebrations turned into funereal rites. I am not at all surprised that some people will leave our communion and fellowship because others are admitted. It is a sure sign that God cares still for the church - it is God chucking them out &endash; and good riddance.



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