The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s155g16   Third Sunday in Lent   28/2/2016

(I note that the Australian version of the RCL has this gospel for Lent 3 and the gospel for Lent 3 today.   Hence I have done two shorter sermons this week.   Bosco Peters describes us as ‘The Anglican Church Of Or’  (1) :-)

‘For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none.   Cut it down!’   Luke 13:7

We should not blithely overlook the fact that we have an impatient God.   As Martin Luther King said: ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ (2) which I reinterpret as ‘love delayed is love denied’.

God is impatient for us to love, because otherwise, other people are hurt.   And when other people are hurt, it cannot be ‘love’; it cannot be done in God’s name.  

We readily recognise that suicide bombers and terrorists are operating under a travesty of an interpretation of Islam, but fail to recognise that any theology which serves to marginalise, alienate and ultimately condemn another person in the name of the Christian God is equally a travesty.   ‘The wages of sin is death’ (3) so the death of another either by our commission or by our omission is sinful - and we cannot escape this by quoting either scripture or tradition.

Recently we heard the account of the Transfiguration and the healing of the boy with epilepsy read on the Sunday before Lent.  Jesus said: ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?   Bring your son here.’  (4)  The words are so bleak and uncompromising.   No doubt Jesus felt the relentless pressure to fix every situation.   It seems he regained his composure when he said: ‘You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’  (5)

So often our religion is about imploring God to fix the universe, whereas the divine preoccupation is with hoping, praying and dying that humanity will treat one another humanely.

The Cross is the ultimate expression of what an exclusive puritanical religion does to those who defend the simple doctrine of treating others with dignity - they kill them!

The Cross is nothing about forgiving the sins of those who believe; it is about God forgiving the sins of those who treat others humanely, and we have Peter to thank for putting this so succinctly: ‘love covers a multitude of sins’. (6)

The faith we have is not a faith that God will fix all situations but that we are called not to claim a divine prerogative to exclude, marginalise, alienate and condemn anyone else.   Inclusion and acceptance may not fix the world, but embracing others will make life a lot more bearable for all.

And it strikes me that this is good news, for the kingdom of God no longer depends on the masses in the pews successfully being whipped into shape and spurred into action by the leaders, but when the church corporate begins to empty herself of the pretense to superiority and treats all people with respect.   But as Jesus says: ‘no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, 'The old is good.’’ (7)   No one lets go of personal power and authority easily ..

3.  Romans 6:23
4.  Luke 9:41
5.  Matthew 26:11
6.  1 Peter 4:8
7.  Luke 5:38