Sermon Easter 6 May 21, 2017
Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:7-18 1 Peter 3:13-22 John 14:15-21
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
We live in a profane world. The sacred is almost always forgotten. Dishonesty is prolific and used to either gain an advantage or to cover-up a wrong. To show how bad things have become our leaders on all levels of government, even down to School Boards are mistrusted, because they change their direction as suits the current winds of opinion. Now that is a really bad broad brush on the whole class of our leaders, and is somewhat unfair, but it’s how we often feel because we resent being disappointed by those we trust. For instance, when in Opposition, political parties will condemn just about everything the Government proposes, but when circumstances change and they become the Government, yesterday’s poison becomes today’s tasty dessert. What’s happening is they are all trying to survive, to save their jobs, keep their seats, their pensions and position in society, that’s profane. There are of course exceptions. On the other side of the coin there are also those who are totally incompetent and who will say anything to try and make their ineptitude disappear. It doesn’t work because we are not stupid.
All living creatures have a natural leaning towards survival. As humans we achieve that through safety and security, that’s what we all want our leaders to provide. It’s automatic then that we put survival first. We cling to life as we know it and to life itself out of the fear of change and what could come after. We stay in abusive relationships because the alternative may be worse. We accept the failings of others and often our own failings because we fear things could be worse. It’s a very human trait to accept less than excellence, purity and perfection, all in the name of survival, so we compromise. Somewhere in our systems we have a gene labelled ‘Compromise’. Now sometimes compromise is needed but we do it too often.
The Bible does not compromise its life lessons and guidance so that we understand the sacred and the profane. From the beginning people trusted in God as their leader. And God was good at it. But there came a time when people became discontent even though things were going well. They rejected God (1 Samuel 10:19) and wanted to be like everyone else, to have a strong king to lead them, so they crowned a king and it’s been downhill since then. God warned what would happen with a king – taxation, appropriation, expropriation, the crushing demands of service to the State and little time for ourselves. Over time the king and his cronies, that is what we call society’s elite, took advantage of the common people through the power of the throne.
Like me, you have probably read the prophets and seen that for chapter after chapter, they rail against the elites who rejected God and took care of themselves at the expense of the newly poor and the disenfranchised. And we thought the one percent was a modern concept.
Peter addresses this problem in his first letter, part of which we read today. He says when you stray from the straight-and-narrow, that is, the path of righteousness you probably deserve any hardship you suffer because of it. For instance, if you chose to go along with a bad regime, because everyone else does, that is, you compromise justice, then when the tables are turned and you are called to account you have no defence. There is no protection under the guise of Superior Orders or pleading “but everyone else did it too”. We, every one of us, have to make moral judgments and stand out from the crowd, when justice and righteousness demand it.
If just one person in the crowd, which called for Jesus’ Blood on Good Friday, had said ‘No’ he or she may have saved the Saviour, a sacred action. We will never know. But we can be pretty sure that that one person would have suffered at the hands of the crowd, because the elite incited them (Mark 15:11). Today’s protestors and social commentators find themselves up against the same power of the State because the elite pull the strings of power to protect themselves. It’s obvious in places like Russia, Turkey, China, Thailand, Burma, Egypt and the like today but we have had our problems too (the On-to-Ottawa March, the Winnipeg General Strike) as has our next door neighbour (Civil War) (Kent State) (Race Riots). The State acts in its own interests or rather the interests of those who hold power, which are not the same as those of the people but often the best interests of the Elite, a profane action.
In his letter today Peter compares the sacred and the profane. To suffer for a crime is no glory but to suffer for the Truth always brings redemption. God does have a Plan and in it Good will overcome Evil. Suffering because you deserve it has no merit, one of the criminals executed with Jesus made that very point (Luke 23:41). Even though a criminal may have paid his debt to society by a jail term he has done nothing for justice. The crime cannot be undone, the harm cannot be repaired, justice cannot be given by taking something away, even life, from an offender. It is the one reason we need forgiveness – a wrong can never be righted – an eye for an eye carries no weight in the Scales of Justice. We get justice only through our own right behaviour.
So what’s the best advice we can find here ? Well that’s easy it’s the words of Jesus. Keep the commandments. We all know He wasn’t talking about just the Top Ten, He was talking about all the commandments which are wrapped-up in these two – love God, love your neighbour as yourself – those are the great commandments (Matthew 22:40). To keep them honestly may require us going against our own interests and cause us hardship and suffering but if they do we will accept the suffering as worthwhile. Like most people I have sometimes been on the Wrong side of Right and I regret that deeply. But I have tried to live in accordance with the Word of God and have found that even when foregoing advantage I have received the blessing of the clear conscience of which Peter speaks. I don’t compromise so much. We need to go back to trusting God, and making Him our King again instead of mere mortals. Amen. Alleluia !