Sermons - June 2020
Sermon 7th June 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUNDAY 07 JUNE 2020, TRINITY SUNDAY & ST COLUMBA’S DAY
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
[Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.] Psalm 8:3-5
In the face of ocean depths or the vastness of space;
in the face of life’s trivialities or tragedies and the brevity of our days;
What are human beings that God is mindful of us?
God, why do you take a second look at us? (The Message)
In a week of images highlighting racial inequality –
the disproportionate impact of Corona Virus on BAME
(Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities,
to the unlawful killing of George Floyd, an African American
during a police arrest in Minneapolis –
it is not easy to own the Psalmist’s affirmation:
God, you have crowned us with glory and honour.
Where, like the Psalmist of old, might you find
both the handiwork of heaven, the moon and the stars,
yet something earthbound too?
Something glorious and honourable - humanity crowned.
Can I suggest, a desert island;
more specifically, this week’s Desert Island Discs.
I am sure you know the beautifully simple formula of the long-running radio show.
Guests are invited to choose and talk about their eight desert island discs,
along with one book and one luxury.
Over the decades: pens and paper, coffee, tea, photo albums, musical instruments, telescopes,
Theatre director Marianne Elliott requested a bath with three taps:
hot and cold water and wine!
This week, Desert Island Discs featured the music that has sustained
or come to be meaningful, to ordinary folk, during lockdown.
There was a wonderful range:
Village in Dorset, 1pm The hills are alive with the sound of music.
Followed by a request from fellow villagers, leading to daily, impromptu dancing.
Head teacher. Missing the buzz and chatter of the school day;
most of all the sound of the children singing –
His choice: Mary Poppins, Let’s go and fly a kite
“It reminds me of time when all together as a school community –
the passion, enthusiasm and optimism of the children.”
Not surprisingly, there was music from hospital.
The man who was given ten minutes to phone his family before he was placed on a ventilator,
recognising the likelihood that he might not live.
Bestowing the request to listen to folk singer’s, Sandy Denny,
Who knows where the time goes?
Later, the same man, paying tribute to the care he had received
and describing how medical staff applauded him
when later he was finally discharged.
Neurologist, on night shift. Overtaken by a piano piece by Greig, entitled, Homesickness.
“We are all homesick for the world where we saw each other face to face and we touched.
As a human species we need to touch; we are a tactile species.
… … …
For that key worker,
the music was a reminder that such a time will come again
and we shouldn’t despair.
(The music): “Unassuming, tiny, delicate but very insistent.
Like life, insisting on itself.
A window or a call from a world beyond Covid.
After that, love will be waiting.”
Time and time again, what comes through these musical choices
and their accompanying stories
is the desire for, and discovery of, connection.
And connection is at the heart of Trinity Sunday.
For connection is at the heart of God,
as we, albeit falteringly, describe God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I was given this week, the intriguing comment –
that if we take the Trinity seriously, we have to say:
“In the beginning was the Relationship”.
(“The Divine Dance: the Trinity and your transformation”, Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell)
Echo of John’s Gospel opening: In the beginning was the Word.
“In the beginning was the Relationship”.
God is relationship, intimacy, connection, and communion.
Think baptism of Jesus – the interplay of things.
When God the Son is baptized,
God the Spirit descends in the form of a dove,
and God the Father parts the heavens to speak delight and affirmation.
If Three is the deepest nature of the One;
if relating and relationship is at the heart of God,
where does that leave us, as disciples/students of the Trinity?
And before we dismiss it all as something dreamt up
in an obscure or irrelevant theological think tank –
remember, the Trinity it was forged and articulated by Christians in the ordeal of experience;
facing questions, challenges and persecution.
Trying to make sense of the life they had chosen (or been chosen by.)
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” I Corinthians 13:13
is what got them through the furnace of the day and the night terror.
Connection and faith; faith in connection.
As Desert Island Discs reaffirmed the importance of music,
and this week’s headlines played out,
I was reminded this week of an earlier documentary
about music and the Civil Rights movement. (Soul Music)
“Music played a major role in the Civil rights movement.
Without music, the Civil Rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.”
Music created a sense of solidarity; it unified people, it inspired us to sit in.
We sang, even in gaol.
“When in doubt pray and sing.”
One eye witness described a Civil Rights gathering (1963, Danville, Alabama)
being surrounded by police, ready to break up the meeting in violent fashion.
Fearful, the protestors began to sing Amazing Grace
and marched through, the parting police ranks.
The law enforcers described as uncomfortable,
because that was song sung in white churches.
We made it back to church that night.
Desert Island Discs began with the description of hospital staff discovering
that at the end of routine staff meetings, with all their attendant pressures,
singing together, gave them purpose and energy – returning to the wards with a smile.
Most particularly, they discovered that singing Amazing Grace stunned them.
“I can’t really explain what happened but we sang it absolutely beautifully;
people really connected with that song. Did we just do that?
… … …
Song about healing: Ultimately, it is a song transformation,
striving to do the right/best thing.”
This week I received a message from a college friend in Chicago
who for many years worked with excluded school children in that city:
“What a hard time - but I am hopeful that all of this unrest
will finally light the fire of change.”
Dr Martin Luther King, accepting the Nobel Peace prize in 1964:
“I refuse to accept despair as a final response to the ambiguities of history;
I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life,
unable to influence the unfolding events that surround him.”
A window or a call from a world beyond present sorrow and present anger,
where love will be waiting
and all lives matter, crowned and honoured.
For in the beginning, and in the end –
the heart of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 14th June 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUNDAY 14 JUNE 2020
“These are the names of the twelve apostles:
first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.” Matthew 10:2-4
A few blocks from St Columba’s, at the top end of Exhibition Road,
close to the famous Albert Hall and Albert Memorial is a statue.
From the combined height of pedestal and horse,
a Victorian military figure, commands the junction ahead of him.
Imposing, rather fine, if that’s your taste.
Every time we pass it, I turn to my eight-year-old daughter and ask:
“Have I told you about this statue?”
The combination of groan and rolling eyes, suggest she may have heard it before.
“Well”, I offer enthusiastically. “His name is General Napier.
He was a general and he won a war in a part of India called Sindh.
Following victory, he sent a one-word message – in Latin –
the word, Peccavi – which means, “I have sinned.”
[Sindh, the province and sinned the verb]
This is definitely my only Latin pun anecdote, so I feel it merits some attention.
Audience response? “Can I have an ice cream now?”
Perhaps my daughter is right – anecdotes from an era of Latin grammar
and imperial conquest are perhaps best left behind?
Statues of empire and their accompanying stories
have been headline making, recently.
But, before examining that, maybe pause a moment
and consider a statue from the pages of poetry - Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley:
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said -“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies,
[The now toppled head of the statue still bears the, sneer of cold command,]
… … …
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
King of Kings, colossal Wreck – the lone and level sands stretch far away:
It is a warning to the pride of all who set themselves above others –
A reminder that all empires, crowns, corporations and celebrities come and go.
Statues too. Psalmist declares: “Put not your trust in princes…
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,
whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Psalm 146:3,5
“Statue smashing has a long and complicated history – and it is always contentious.”
(Revd Giles Fraser, BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day)
The toppling of the C19th Bristol slave trader, Edward Coston’s statue
and its unceremonious dumping into the harbour,
on the back of George Floyd’s brutal killing in Minnesota,
continues to provoke and polarise opinion.
Outrage and fear at civil unrest, apparently unchecked by law enforcement;
or, the symbolic, exhilarating and righteous righting, of an old evil.
Would it have been more powerful if those in authority had taken it down,
or at least done enough to make it clear how Coston,
known as a generous philanthropist, made his money,
by the humiliation and cruelty of the slave trade.
I am told the great boom in British statuary was 1830-1914, the era of empire.
Before mass photography, statues were the only visual image available.
So many of the statues of our civic spaces
were deliberate expressions of patriotism and power.
Nowadays, we know too much about most of our leading figures
to give them such unchecked reverence.
A more transitory home in Madame Tussaud’s perhaps would suffice.
Commenting on the Coston statue –
the juxtaposition of philanthropist and slave trader –
someone said to me this week: “None of us really merits a statue,
because none of us is perfect. Let the one without sin cast the first stone….”
Statue smashing of course has biblical pedigree.
One of the Old Testament’s most vivid tales
comes during the wanderings in the wilderness, of the children of Israel,
escaping the slavery of Egypt.
Moses goes up the mountain, to meet with God.
A cloud descends upon the high places;
even Moses is not permitted to see God face to face.
Meanwhile, in camp, patience runs out;
the people crave a more visible, more predictable God.
The priests gather the jewellery of everyone
and melt the gold to form a statue – a golden calf.
Upon return, Moses is incandescent.
He forces them to grind down the idol, immerse the powder in water
and makes them drink it.
As a first-time hearer of this tale said this week: “Hardcore.”
Like the abandoned statue of Ozymandias,
the creation and destruction of the golden calf, is a warning.
It is about the danger of idol worship – particularly for people of faith.
As arguments rage - what are our sacred cows?
Do they merit unquestioned status?
Are they unlocking, or roadblocking, the work of the Spirit, here and now?
Do the people, the histories, the ideas, the people we celebrate,
the ones we elevate, to pedestals real or imagined,
do they align, with what we understand to be God’s priorities?
From Psalm 146 that warned about placing trust in princes, it continues:
“Happy, those whose help and hope is in the Lord their God:
who executes justice for the oppressed; gives food to the hungry.
sets the prisoners free; opens the eyes of the blind.
lifts up those who are bowed down;
watches over the strangers; upholds the orphan and the widow,
who loves the righteous, and keeps faith forever.”
Today’s gospel gave a roll call of names – twelve disciples.
In time, we have certainly made statues or stained glass of some of them.
We also know enough about them to understand they were completely human,
a mixed bunch at that; including deserters, Zealots and betrayers;
capable of grandeur and prone to failure.
Yet they are called and commissioned to serve in the world.
Listed names remind us God works through flesh and blood people, not grand ideas.
Will work, through us;
if we have the humility and faith to follow.
Starting honestly with, peccavi – I have sinned –
but discovering joyfully, that is a beginning word, not a last word.
Because God’s mercy, and Jesus’ word of forgiveness
adds/renews our names to that disciple list; commissions us to play our part:
For freely we have received; freely we must give.
Peccavi - two footnotes to the man on the horse statue:
It seems unlikely General Napier ever sent the message.
The ‘peccavi’ story appeared in Punch magazine in 1844 and became accepted as fact.
It’s thought that the author of the joke was Catherine Winkworth, a teenager.
Winkworth (1827–1878) went on to become a translator and campaigner for women’s rights.
And the statue that I regularly show Olivia near the Albert Hall?
It is indeed a man called Napier? It’s just not the right Napier.
The East India Company soldier of Peccavi fame actually, resides in Trafalgar Square.
Sermon 21st June 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUNDAY 21 JUNE 2020
Do not be afraid Hagar; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.
Come lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand,
for I will make a great nation of him.”
In 2014, at the Academy Awards ceremony,
the Oscar for best documentary feature film went to: 20 Feet From Stardom.
The movie honoured the unknown musicians who sang backup vocals
for Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin,
the Rolling Stones, U2, and more.
Many of these backup singers were black women who leart to sing in church.
Darlene Love, daughter of a pastor, (then aged 72,)
featured prominently in 20 Feet From Stardom
and accepted the Oscar on behalf of the film.
In her acceptance speech to Hollywood's glitterati she declared:
“Lord God, I praise you, and I am so happy to be here
representing the ladies of Twenty Feet From Stardom.”
She then burst into a full-throated rendition of the gospel hymn:
“I sing because I'm happy, / I sing because I'm free, /
His eye is on the sparrow, / And I know he watches me.”
She received a standing ovation. (It’s all there on Youtube.)
Not long before his death, Jesus asked:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father."
So, do not be afraid:
“Even the very hairs of your head are numbered by God.”
Do not be afraid:
“You are worth more than many sparrows.”
Three times: Do not be afraid:
God sees; God hears: God knows us infinitely and intimately;
“God’s eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me."
Gospel promise; also, First Testament tale.
The saga of Hagar. And it is a saga:
A tale of complicated, compromised lives
and the hurts they inflict upon each other.
It is also a story about how and where these flawed people experience God,
In moments of dignity and defeat, in moments of despair and deliverance.
Abram, called in old age to be a wanderer for God.
Along with Sarah his wife; bearers of the Divine promise:
“I will make of you a great nation – descendants, as many as the stars of the desert night.
To their credit, when the Almighty said, “Go” – they went.
On their travels, somewhere along the line, Hager joined the travelling caravan.
Hagar. Egyptian by birth, an African sister, a slave.
The years and the miles added up –
the promised progeny showed no sign of showing up.
Sarah decides the divine plan needs a little help.
The servant girl will bear Abraham a child.
Hagar acquiesces – was there a choice?
As a slave her fertility was not her own.
Yet there were advantages.
Few in the camp would cross her now, if she was the mother of Abraham’s little one.
But the best laid plans …
“When Hagar saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt upon her mistress.”
Sarah, infuriated, confronts Abraham:
“May the wrong done to me, be on you! I gave this slave girl to your embrace, now this.
May the Lord judge between you and me!”
Abraham’s response? A battle, the old hero will not fight:
“The girl is yours, do as you please.”
The mistress dealt harshly with the girl
and like an unhappy adolescent, she runs, from the place others call home.
The desert was no place for a pregnant runaway
When she is found – by God’s angel – she is asked:
“Hagar, where have you come from and where are you going?”
Her tale of woe pours out.
“Go back. Retake your place. Your offspring will greatly multiply.
And this child, that stirs within you.
Call him “Ishmael” which means God Hears,
because God has given heed to your afflictions.
In turn, Hagar gives God a name:
“The Living One who sees me.”
In a Hebrew, a play on words - Hagar exclaims, “I have seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:1–6). Hagar returns.
Fourteen biblical years later; the upstairs-downstairs drama
heads for a second defining moment. (Read this morning.)
“The Lord dealt with Sarah, as the Lord had promised.”
Her crazy dream comes true.
Isaac, child of Sarah and Abraham; fruit of waiting; a boy called “Laughter.”
“Chuckles,”/Isaac grows and is weaned;
on the day of his weaning, Abraham declares a feast.
But there’s trouble; neither the first, nor the last family gathering, to end in tears.
Who knows what ghosts still haunted Sarah –
Hagar’s continued youth, her contempt, unforgotten;
the unspoken threat from that wild colt, Ishmael?
For the miraculous, now matriarch, there could be no chances
where her child was concerned;
she would not be robbed of the dream.
“Abraham, cast her out; the woman and the boy.
Ishmael must not inherit. He and Isaac are not equal.”
A second time, Abraham faces losing his own flesh and blood.
Then the Holy One:
“Do not fear. Do as Sarah commands. Isaac is the one.
Ishmael too will beget, will become a nation.”
Both are promises.
Just before dawn, the camp still sleeping,
the wine cups scattered round the last embers, a dog’s early bark,
Abraham went to Hagar. There was nothing to say.
The water skin, the wrapped loaf – inadequate, farewell gifts.
Did Hagar always know this day would come?
Perhaps defiantly – no backward glance.
Ishmael, barely awake, stumbling after her,
confused, searching his father’s face for explanation.
Abraham, old and hollowed out.
Sarah, watching it all, before turning back to her sleeping Isaac.
Once again, the mercilessness of the desert;
not long before water skin and bread are gone.
She was stronger than the child –
yet even she could not face the final agonies.
Under a meagre shelter she lays the boy –
withdraws a bow shot’s distance (some 300 feet.)
The under the pitiless sky, like a tidal wave, a great howl of anguish:
“Hagar lifted up her voice and wept.”
“What troubles you?” another angel of the desert.
It sounds crass or callous, unless you hear it:
“Hagar, why do you fear, knowing what you know?
Remember the child’s name – Ishmael – God hears.
Remember the name you gave God – God sees.
Take the boy’s hand. Hold him fast. He is still to be a great nation.”
God speaks to Hagar’s heart; she looks and her world is changed.
She re-crosses No Man’s Land, the bow shot’s distance,
and in the embracing of the child’s suffering
the parent discovers life-giving water near at hand; water to save his life; and hers.
That is the saga of our ancestress Hagar;
a wild, sometimes shabby affair of pride and insecurity, jealousy and weakness.
It is about how the two boys, Isaac and Ishmael survive all this.
There are two reasons to tell the tale.
We tell the story, not because of the seediness of the humanity,
but the steadfastness of the Divinity;
The God who sees; the God who hears;
and despite what we do to ourselves and each other,
continues to care;
counting both the stars of heaven and the hairs of our head.
We tell the tale also to ask:
What is the distress God hears now – which voices of anger or lament?
Which weeping does God weep over?
What promises is God keeping? What eyes is God opening?
It is difficult to look beyond the continuing Black Lives Matter protests –
raising awareness about continuing racial injustice at several levels in our common life.
As a church friend admitted this week:
“I am not as reasonable as I thought I was.”
Two weeks ago, John Sentamu, retired as Archbishop of York.
Born near Kampala in Uganda, he was a lawyer and judge
and suffered under the regime of Idi Amin.
Defying an order to deliver a not guilty verdict he was arrested and badly beaten in prison.
He fled to the UK in 1974.
His appointment to York for the first time in history, the Church of England would have a black archbishop. Sentamu himself played that down:
“First I am a Christian, second I am a man, third I am black”.
It is also true that while living in London,
he was stopped and searched by the police eight times.
There were other incidents too:
“There was a lady who didn’t want me to take her husband’s funeral because I was black.
I took one funeral and at the end a man said to me,
‘Why did my father deserve to be buried by a black monkey?.’
We also received letters with excrement in them.”
The gospel reading affirms, yes, the hairs on our head are all counted,
and yes, we are worth more to God than many sparrows.
But it also spells out, the life of faith is arduous and risky.
It does not guarantee health, wealth, prosperity or safety.
When Jesus declared: “Not peace but a sword” –
It is not his desire to stir up conflict, for conflict’s sake.
But, reminder that the peace Jesus offers us
is not the fake peace of denial, dishonesty, and harmful accommodation.
His is a holistic, truth-telling, disinfecting peace.
Jesus will disrupt: not because Jesus wants us to suffer,
but because he knows that real peace is worth fighting for.
(See Debie Thomas, Journey with Jesus Jun 2020)
To bring about change you must not be afraid to take the first step. Rosa Parks
Sermon 28th June 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUN 28 JUNE 2020
“Go, tell Hananiah, Thus says the Lord:
You have broken wooden bars only to forge iron bars in place of them!”
(And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah,)
“Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you,
and you made this people trust in a lie.” Jeremiah 28:13, 15
Once upon a time, (and this is a true story,) there was a medical student.
Along with her peers, she was required to study for an important exam.
Though it was a major hurdle, it was not a final exam,
so the class were due back in the lecture halls, the very next day.
The morning after the exam, less than half the class attended.
The Professor – a man of stern reputation – waited for five minutes.
The announced: “If the class can’t be bothered to turn up, then I can’t be bothered to teach!”
And strode from the hall; the students were stunned.
The medical student asked: “Is it just me, or was that unfair?
We came to class – why won’t he teach us?”
That afternoon, she wrote a letter to the Professor.
- She explained the circumstances – yesterday they all had a big exam.
Perhaps the Professor was unaware of that?
- Not teaching the lesson was not fair, on those who did attend.
The next day the student received a note, an immediate summons to the Professor’s Office. She went, understandably nervous. How irate was the Professor going to be?
When she entered his office; the Professor was holding the note (looking pretty ferocious.)
“Did you write this note?” ….Yes.
“Is this what you believe?”....Yes.
“Hmmm. Well, you were right; I was unfair.
What do you want me to do about it?”
“Well, you could apologise to the students who were at the lecture
and you could give the lecture to all of us.”
The professor considered:
“I’ll give the lecture; but I will only apologise to you.
You were the only one brave enough to write a letter.”
Speaking truth to power.
Calling someone out, an individual or an institution –
a child in The Emperor’s New Clothes;
Some of the qualities of a biblical prophet.
(Prophet meaning, spokesperson, not fortune-teller.)
Throughout Scripture, with a total lack of tact,
The prophets roar against phoniness and corruption
wherever they find them.
The prophet Nathan told King David to his face
that he was a crook and an adulterer (2 Samuel 12:1-15).
John the Baptist, much the same.
Amos declared to the priests that God’s verdict on their religion:
“I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Justice is what I want, not photo opportunities;
righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:21-24).
Jeremiah himself showed a clay pot to a crowd of Judeans
and told them it represented Judah.
Then he smashed it to smithereens and told them
that this was a mild version of what God had in mind to do to them (Jeremiah 19).
The American Presbyterian minister and writer, Frederick Buechner observed wryly:
“There is no evidence to suggest that anyone ever asked a prophet home for supper
more than once.”
[Hearing uncomfortable truths is neither easy to deliver, nor easy to receive.]
In our Old Testament reading this week, (Jeremiah 28),
There is a kind of prophet throw-down.
Two prophets declaring contrary messages to the people.
The year is 594 B.C.E.
The Babylonians have conquered Jerusalem, captured many of its leaders,
and carried them into exile.
The small band of people who remain in the wrecked city
long for the Babylonian oppression to end, a return to normal life.
They crave a word of deliverance from God.
Prophet 1, Hananiah announces deliverance is on its way.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:
I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.
3Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house,
which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.
4I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah,
and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord,
for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”
Prophet 2, Jeremiah: “Amen! May the Lord do so;
may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied,
and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord,
and all the exiles.
7But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing
and in the hearing of all the people.
8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times
prophesied war, famine, and pestilence
against many countries and great kingdoms.
[They have dared to tell the hard and holy truths;
about God’s anger and grief at a people’s unfaithfulness;
about the need for repentance and return.
hard and holy truths about the high cost of justice, about sacrifice and endurance.]
9As for the prophet who prophesies peace,
when the word of that prophet comes true,
then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”
Jeremiah had taken to wearing a wooden yoke around his neck,
a walking reminder of their servitude to the Babylonians.
Hananiah, now, just as theatrically as Jeremiah has worn the yoke,
takes it from Jeremiah’s neck and dashes it to pieces.
“Thus says the Lord: This is how I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.”
It is exactly the message the people wish to hear.
A message of nationalist hope, divine favour, and victory assured.
At this, the prophet Jeremiah went his way.
12Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:
13Go, tell Hananiah, Thus says the Lord:
You have broken wooden bars, only to forge iron bars in place of them!
14For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:
I have put an iron yoke on the neck of all these nations so that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and they shall indeed serve him;
I have even given him the wild animals.
The Babylonian exile will not end quickly, Jeremiah declares.
God’s people will have to wait and pray and surrender and repent.
Jeremiah can't/won’t offer a feel good, false promise of peace.
He can only offer them the truth.
Right now, the Chosen people are naked,
because for too long they had clothed themselves
with the rich robes of injustice.
The Gospel fragment has Jesus spelling out to his disciples
that if they follow him, they will encounter
both great welcome and fierce hostility.
To receive or reject a prophet;
to speak out or stay silent;
these are choices of today, not just dusty Old Testament temples.
Who are our prophets of our day and age – within or without the Church?
Who will ask the awkward question,
make the uncomfortable challenge,
sometimes at personal cost, but for a greater good?
How will we hear and react when the challenge is made to us –
maybe giving up some of the privilege or advantage
we have grown accustomed to?
Jesus said: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
Jesus hands his own reputation to his disciples.
How the world will view Christ
will come from how the world views us.
Professor, that was unfair.
The Emperor is naked!
You have broken wooden bars, only to replace them with iron!
The vocation of truth-telling:
We are not at liberty to soften the Gospel,
with its demands for justice,
for the sake of our own likeability.
We mirror Jesus, whether we plan to or not:
What a risk; what a responsibility; what a reward.