The readings on which this
sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r163.htm
s163e13 Fifth Sunday of Easter (Anzac
'Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no
more, for the first things have passed away.' Revelation
Surely this is the prayer we all have for the world and everyone
in it. As we in Australia and New Zealand observed
our Anzac Day (1) last Thursday (25th April) we remembered the
sacrifices made by so many to achieve precisely this sort of
peace. Sadly those who returned have found their
efforts to be in vain, as conflict has soon resumed.
Why has not the world learned? The 'war to end all
wars' (1914 - 1918) was followed so soon after by World
War II (1939 - 1945). The Vietnam War (1959 - 1975) - the
first televised war spawned a global peace movement amongst
ordinary people symbolised by Hair (1967) and Woodstock
(1969). These would have been unthinkable in society
without an affluence enabling protest, communication which
facilitated the advertisement of dissent and the sexual
revolution which again empowered people.
I can but quote the song (it is hard not to sing it :-) 'The Age
of Aquarius': 'When the moon is in the seventh house / And
Jupiter aligns with Mars / Then peace will guide the planets /
And love will steer the stars / This is the dawning of the age
of Aquarius / The age of Aquarius, Aquarius, Aquarius / Harmony
and understanding / Sympathy and trust abounding / No more
falsehoods or derisions / Golden living dreams of visions /
Mystic crystal revelation / And the minds true liberation
Aquarius, Aquarius.' (2)
So it is not just the church who strives for peace.
And then we have the bombings at the finish line of the Boston
Marathon. And we ask ourselves why?
But then I thought about the church and how we often portray
ourselves as the champions of peace and prayer. We are
certainly in a position of influence and authority and we demand
everyone play by our rules on pain of excommunication, and I
suddenly thought - why on earth would anyone want to join such a
club? One might fear a church like this and a god
like this, but the last thing would be that we love a church or
a god like this. We, the church, cannot expect
intimacy from others we really want to control - even if we are
certain that we know what's best for them.
Can we actually expect the indigenous people of any country to
love Pakeha / european invaders?
I have observed that the biblical exegetes who love the words of
scripture are not those who proclaim the bible as the word of
God. No, it is the liberal theologians who
love the bible. In my experience those who proclaim
the bible as the word of God use it as a weapon to challenge
others, a word used by them far more frequently than the word
'love'. 'Challenge' is used only once in the bible I
use and it is in the context of conflict. (3)
If we, as the church, want to be the instruments of a new age of
tenderness and love, we as the church have to give up trying to
control others - for who else can we expect to do
this? Why else would the gift of the Holy Spirit be
given, why are we assured that we do not need to be afraid, if
not because not being in control can be a scary place?
If we in the church are afraid to give up our efforts to
manipulate others and manipulate society - why should we expect
anyone else to, and criticise others when they commit
If we quote Jesus' words: ‘I give you a new commandment .. that
you love one another .. as I have loved you, you also should
love one another’ (4) as if everything would be sweetness and
light if those who don't come to church loved like this, we are
seriously deluded. In my experience in the church
and as a chaplain at a psychiatric hospital, the mentally ill
patients were far, far easier to get on with than the power
brokers and gatekeepers in the church.
And this is real delusion. Those with mental illness
usually only hurt themselves and a few of those around
them. Those who manipulate others in the name of God
hurt whole congregations, whole dioceses, whole denominations
and society in general.
As someone on Facebook said following the bombings in Boston,
echoing the sentiments many of us feel: 'why can't we all just
be world citizens every day!' Well, being world
citizens is not the aim of many in the church - we are the chief
offenders! And when we as the church don't even have
this as our clearly stated and chief aim, it is no wonder that
others try to use destructive power to make their mark, for they
are competing with us. And we have no excuse for
this not being our chief aim when the foundation of our faith,
supposedly, the incarnation, is where God became a 'world
citizen' and bids us do likewise.
So if we in the church want peace in the world, where 'mourning
and crying and pain will be no more', we've got to get up off
our knees and forget about asking God to bring this.
If we as the church want a world where intimacy rather than
violence prevails then we as the church have to stop trying to
coerce others into our way of life, submission to our doctrines
and use of our forms of worship, no matter how right and
god-given we may think they are. For as long as we
do not do this we are complicit in the violence in the world and
each and every tragedy that happens. For as long as
we do not do this the world and individuals are denied the
affirmation and inclusion that might just turn their life
St John tells us that 'love casts out fear' (5), but the church
has utilised fear - fear of God, fear of condemnation, fear of
being different to coerce others into our way of life,
submission to our doctrines and use of our forms of
worship. We know what's good for the world and
what's good for others, and we are going to tell them, whether
they like it or not! Well, guess
what? We ourselves have resurrected 'the first
things' and 'mourning and crying and pain will' continue
unabated. We in the church, who believe that we hold
all the spiritual cards, have got to throw them all away if we
actually want intimacy and love.
It is the incarnation and the Cross which shows us that God
relinquishes power and instigates the possibility of intimacy,
with the divine, and between humanity.
The incarnation and the Cross shows us the certainty that God
wants a world where intimacy and love reign rather than violence
and death. So the real question is: 'Do we?'
(1) Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)
who fought at Gallipoli during World War I. It now
more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in
military operations for their countries.
(2) 1967 musical Hair by James Rado & Gerome Ragni
(lyrics), and Galt MacDermot (music), released as a single by
The 5th Dimension.
(3) 'You set a snare for yourself and you were caught, O
Babylon, but you did not know it; you were discovered and
seized, because you challenged the Lord'. Jeremiah 50.24
(4) John 13:34
(5) 1 John 4.18