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

s158g16   Palm Sunday   20/3/2016

‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’  Luke 23:5

I note that there is no mention of sin or atonement or dying for others here in this account of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.   It is plain old boring manipulation of the secular authorities by the religious to get their way, to reassert their monopoly on orthodoxy, to stymie any popular uprising.

Clearly Jesus didn’t die for God.   The concept that Jesus died to appease an angry God leaves us with a deity who is, if not actually schizophrenic, a being who has difficulty deciding what to do. ‘Flip-flopping’ is the modern political terminology.    But if ‘the Father and I are one’ (1) is true, Jesus reflects who God is eternally, and that must be that the divine is eternally prepared to suffer.   Neither did Jesus die for himself.   Most of us know someone with a martyr complex and Jesus doesn’t fit this personality type.  

So Jesus died for others, not to please, or appease, God, nor to magnify himself.

Traditionally we are taught that Jesus died for sinners, but in practice the exclusive church has taught that this actually means that Jesus died only for those sinners who believe that they are redeemed sinners, redeemed because they believe in this redemption; as distinct from the multitude of others who are sinners but don’t believe and therefore aren’t redeemed.

Recently I watched some of the testimony Cardinal George Pell gave to the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia.  (2)   Apparently he was part of a consistory called to appoint a priest to a parish, and the Cardinal’s testimony was that the chair of the consistory didn’t inform the other members of allegations against the candidate under consideration.  And I thought, well, if you want the outcome to be predetermined in your way, why would a chair muddy the waters by proffering contrary evidence.   It should be said that probably the chair thought he had no other option but to move the predatory priest, which was probably true in those days.

But God has stirred up the survivors of clerical sexual abuse by teaching them that the abuse they suffered was abhorrent and such abhorrence was and is not to be swept under the carpet.   Similarly God is stirring up gay and lesbian persons by teaching that they have a place in the kingdom.

Of course in America, Donald Trump is stirring up people; but in contrast, he is stirring up people to continue to marginalise others.

The religious of Jesus’ day were complaining because Jesus was stirring up ordinary people to believe that they too had a place in the kingdom; it was not just reserved to the devout.   The orthodox thought that anyone claiming to be religious would want the ordinary people to remain compliant and submissive to themselves, like children - to be seen and not heard.

Similarly the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans - which I think should be more accurately called the “Fellowship of Straight Anglicans’ are complaining because Jesus is stirring up others to believe that they have a place in the kingdom besides them.

So Jesus died because he stirred the marginalised and the alienated up - Jesus was killed because he stirred people up in opposition to the constant demeaning that religion of his day propagated and perpetuated and by extension religion of our day, often continues to propagate and perpetuate.

And the orthodox tell us that Jesus stirred up people in Galilee, throughout Judea and even to Jerusalem, essentially everywhere where orthodoxy should have had a stranglehold.   So Jesus was sent to confront an orthodoxy which alienated others; and the church Jesus founded is meant to continue this mission to others elsewhere - to stir up others to recognise and take their place as beloved children rather than remain subservient, marginalised, alienated by the exclusive church.

This reaction of orthodoxy to this stirring up stems from fear, because orthodoxy is defined, controlled, predictable.   But it is clear that when people of good will are stirred up, old verities are superseded.   The discoveries of the telescope and the microscope eclipse completely the world view of Moses and the prophets.   When people of good will are stirred up, the authority of the past and the infallibility of scripture become irrelevant.   When people who have a heart are stirred up, they champion refugees, women, the LGBTI, the poor.

I think of those words of the author of the letter to the Hebrews: ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’  (3)  The orthodox equate faith with an assurance of a mythical heaven, whereas the faith of the scientist and the humanitarian is in their efforts to explain what is and to explore what might make this world a more equitable and pleasant place for all to live.   We need to notice the self serving that the concept of a mythical heaven engenders into the debate; in contrast to the selflessness of atheist scientists and humanists - and commend the latter!

St Paul reminds us: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.’ (4)  I note that Paul does not say: ‘There is .. no condemnation for those who are in Church’ (Singing ‘Jesus is a friend of mine’ :-).   I am sure Paul means that there is no condemnation for those working inside and outside the church for a more just and equitable society for all.

1.  John 10:30
3.  Hebrews 11:1
4.  Romans 8:1,2