The readings on which
this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r091.htm
s091g15 Holy Innocents 28/12/2014
‘he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem’
I began this sermon on the morning after the siege in central Sydney
and the killing of the 145, mostly children, in northern Pakistan.
We are rightly horrified and grieve as best we can with those who
have lost loved ones. But I first want to say that those
armed with weapons killing unarmed children are neither brave nor
noble. Deluded probably but brave - never.
Brave is when one takes on an equal, or someone better
armed. Killing defenceless children is not
brave. Bravery isn’t having the more lethal weapon.
I suspect that this is what God speaks against when it is written:
’When you offer your gifts and make your children pass through the
fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this
day. And shall I be consulted by you, O house of
Israel? As I live, says the Lord GOD, I will not be
consulted by you.’ (2)
A small rant here. I really hate the word ‘paedophile’,
not just because of the difficulty in knowing the way it should be
spelt. When this word is used, what is really meant is a
child molester. To use a Greek word seems to dignify
something which is criminal. Everyone loves children -
the root meaning of the Greek word. Fortunately few
Innocent people suffer all the time - sometimes they are
young. And the church perpetrates and perpetuates the
suffering of others - like the prohibition on safe and effective
contraception which causes the continuing poverty, illness and
premature death of millions of innocent people.
Many people were brought up under the tyranny of the dictum:
‘children are to be seen and not heard’ - an abuse made more
horrific because the perpetrators didn’t even see the abuse.
I have difficulty with the feast of the Holy Innocents because it is
never God’s will that the innocent have to suffer. We
are saddled with a theology of predestination which assumes that
everything that occurs, happens because God wills it.
This seems a convenient way of evading responsibility for our
corporate neglect. Indeed it seems to suggest that God
plans some humans to suffer. No! Suffering is
always at the hands of other humans.
The sins of Hophni and Phineas (3), and the parable of the prophet
Nathan to David (4) tell us in no uncertain terms that we must
ensure the sacrifices we make to God are our own, or there will be
hell to pay, whether we be ordained clergy or even the king of
Israel. These instances also highlight the fact that
suffering is often inflicted on others by people thinking that they
are doing God’s will - ‘christians’ as frequently as
others. Somehow ‘they’ can get away with it.
God really loves children and two of the characteristics of children
is that they are not burdened with scriptural or theological
knowledge. Secondly they have nothing to
contribute. They do not have money or prestige to
offer. I am reminded of those words of Jesus: ‘if you
had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you
would not have condemned the guiltless.’ (5) We need to
see that it is the orthodox and the devout who are being condemned
here, the people who went to church - and so the question remains -
are we as church more focussed on the value our sacrifices are to
the kingdom, or being merciful towards others - others who don’t
give, who don’t worship, who don’t belief - ‘like us’.
Do we condemn others because they do not support our own personal
ministry and mission? How do we offer hope to this world
while we continue to insist on others doing things our way?
God loves children - the multitude of ordinary people irrespective
of the fact that they are unversed in scripture and
tradition. Indeed those words of James seem important
here: ‘Not many of you should become teachers’ (6) for God commands
us to love others - as equals - that they in turn will love
others. The only useful thing we can teach others is
that (in the words of the Christmass tweet): ‘we are all loved
equally, we all belong to one another.’
2. Ezekiel 20.31
3. 1 Samuel 2:17
4. 2 Samuel 12:1-10
5. Matthew 12:7
6. James 3.1