“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose
blood Pilate had alloyed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you anticipate that these
Galileans were worse sinners than all the added Galileans because they suffered this
way? I acquaint you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen
who died if the belfry in Siloam fell on them – do you anticipate they were added guilty
than all the others active in Jerusalem? I acquaint you, no! But unless you repent, you too will
all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
Thus begins today’s Gospel reading, and in the adaptation I took this access from it
included a branch – “Repent or die” – which sums up Jesus’ words actuality appealing well!
Some of you are actuality to bless a ablution today, and you may able-bodied accept been
feeling appealing acceptable up to this point. I didn’t aces today’s readings. Conceivably that’s why,
in the aboriginal church, baptisms all happened on Easter Day – a day we bless life!
Today’s readings centre about death, with humans aggravating to get Jesus to acknowledge to
news about a alternation of adverse deaths, and the acknowledgment Jesus offers them seems
tasteless, abnormally for us in our accepted context!
I’m cerebration of the chat about the Galileans in accurate actuality – those “whose blood
Pilate had circuitous with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). Apparently, the Roman governor
had ordered his troops to annihilation a accumulation of worshippers while they were at adoration in
the temple, and the angel of humans getting massacred while at adoration is one that is
very raw for us afterwards the abhorrent cutting at the abbey in Christchurch endure week. All
murder is terrible, but slaughtering humans at adoration seems decidedly barbaric, and it
raises questions for us at a religious akin too. How could God acquiesce this to happen?
That may able-bodied accept been absolutely the catechism these humans were putting to Jesus after
they aloft the adventure with Him, and Jesus’ acknowledgment – that “unless you repent, you
will all perish as they did” (Luke 13:3) seems to be abnormally insensitive.
Jesus’ acknowledgment to the added tragedy mentioned isn’t any added abating either – that
of the eighteen humans ashamed in the collapse of the ‘Tower of Siloam’ (Luke 13:4)
Presumably, this tragedy was just one of those ‘acts of God’ for which no one in
particular was to blame, or conceivably the Belfry of Siloam was something like the Opal
Tower in Homebush, area the tragedy may accept been due to base workmanship
or the littoral of architecture regulations or something like that. Either way, the lesson
Jesus derives from this adventure – that “unless you repent, you will all perish just as they
did.” (Luke 13:9) – is not one advised to accord abundance to those who are grieving.
This is our Gospel account today. It is not a blessed one, and it concludes with a parable
about a fig timberline that is appropriately discomforting.
“A man had a fig timberline growing in his vineyard, and he went to attending for bake-apple on it but did
not acquisition any. So he said to the man who took affliction of the vineyard, ‘For three years now
I’ve been advancing to attending for bake-apple on this fig timberline and haven’t begin any. Cut it down!
Why should it use up the soil?’” (Luke 13:6-7).
‘Give it addition year!’, the agriculturalist pleads, and that’s area the adventure ends. We don’t
know if the backer decides on a break of beheading for the timberline or not. Either way, the
overall bulletin – apologize or die – is bright enough, and our newly-baptised member
could be forgiven at this point for apprehensive ‘what accept I just got myself into?’
I’ll accompaniment at this point that I never see it as my job to accomplish the words of Jesus palatable
for us. If Jesus’ words were meant to be offensive, it would be amiss of me to try to
sugar-coat them in adjustment to yield the bite out. Accepting said that, a argument after a context
is a affectation for a proof-text (as we consistently say). In added words, if we do wish to take
these words seriously, we accept to accept the ambience in which they were spoken.
What were they absolutely allurement – these humans who capital to chat with Jesus about
the annihilation in the temple? Were they afflicted relatives? About absolutely not! What
then – were they just absent to appoint with Jesus in a bit of apostolic speculation?
One believable estimation of this chat is that there’s a political calendar at play.
Pilate is murdering Jews – Jews at prayer! What does Jesus accept to say about that?
What is Jesus traveling to do about that?
I’d advance that Jesus’ alive of the altercation from the temple adventure to the tower
tragedy (which, we assume, had annihilation to do with the Romans) indicates that the
context was not absolutely political but added carefully religious. In added words, these people
were allurement the age-old question, ‘why does God acquiesce things like this to happen?’
This is an age-old question. It can aswell be, I believe, a actual alarming question, as it’s
regularly associated with the action of scapegoating! I’m not suggesting that every
time we ask why something bad happened that we are searching to dupe someone.
It is a actual beastly to ask ‘why’. Even so, a lot of the time if we are searching for
answers, what we are absolutely searching for is anyone to blame.
When tragedy strikes, be it by the brand of Pilate or by the artery from a belfry or from
a gun accursed at a mosque, it can understandably accomplish us feel insecure, and so we look
for answers in adjustment to acquisition reassurance.
‘If those humans were gunned down in a abbey in Christchurch, does that beggarly I
could be gunned down actuality in abbey in Sydney?’ That’s the question, and it’s the sort
of catechism area we absolutely wish anyone in ascendancy to appear up and say to us, ‘No.
Don’t worry. I can’t appear to you because you’re not a Muslim’.
‘Isn’t that why bad things appear to people? It’s because they are bad people? Isn’t
that why there are all those wars traveling on in majority-Muslim countries. It’s not our
fault – absolutely – and it can’t appear actuality area we are all progressive, forward-thinking
white humans who adulation our accouchement and do lots of adapted and forward-thinking things.
Those humans who get attempt or ashamed by building – there’s a acceptable acumen for that, and
even if I don’t apperceive the acumen adapted now I’m abiding that God is just, and so those people
must accept adapted what happened to them, and if they didn’t deserve it afresh there
must accept been some college purpose to it all, even if I just can’t see it at the moment.’
These are the sorts of dialogues we accept with ourselves and, at one level, it’s entirely
appropriate that we do. We accept that God is just. We don’t accept that things just
happen about in our world, and we don’t accept that angry triumphs, do we? If we
believe in God, we accept in order, surely, and justice. It’s abhorrent – blasphemous
even – to not accept that there is a acceptable acumen for aggregate that happens. Well…
that’s absolutely what Job’s accompany believed (for those who’ve apprehend the Book of Job).
I’m not suggesting that it isn’t adapted to ask these questions. Indeed, how can we
be religious humans and not ask these questions? Even so, the crisis is that in looking
for an account to tragedy, what we are absolutely searching for is anyone to accusation so
that we can feel added secure. Who we accusation apparently doesn’t amount too much. It can
be Muslims, Jews, atramentous people… anybody, so continued as they are not ‘one of us’.
“Do you anticipate that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the added Galileans
because they suffered this way?” Jesus asks – those poor souls whose claret Pilate
mingled with their sacrifices. “I acquaint you, no!”
“Or those eighteen who died if the belfry in Siloam fell on them – do you anticipate they
were added accusable than all the others active in Jerusalem? I acquaint you, no!”
Yes, these tragedies are terrible. Yes, they are unnerving, but no, these humans did not
suffer because they adapted it. They weren’t any added amiss than anybody else.
Even so, get your act calm or the next belfry is traveling to abatement on you!
It’s not anon accessible why Jesus had to add that endure line, reminding us about
our own mortality. Was He responding to a complacent attitude on the allotment of the humans He
was dialoguing with? Either way, one affair we can anon get from these
sobering words is that there are acquaint to be abstruse from tragedies like this.
There are acquaint we can apprentice from the tragedy in Christchurch. It can admonish us that
life is fragile, and that we should accomplish the a lot of of every moment that we have. In
watching those who are afflicted in Christchurch, it may reinforce to us too that these
people are our sisters and brothers, and it may animate us to ability out in adulation to
our Muslim sisters and brothers actuality in Sydney.
There are acquaint we can draw from this tragedy, as from all tragedies. What Jesus
wants us to be bright about admitting actuality is that ‘something bad happened to those
people because they adapted it’ is not one of the lessons.
In a funny way I’ve had to administer the acumen of this Gospel access to my own activity in
the endure twenty-four hours. I don’t wish to trivialise the tragedies mentioned in the
passage, and I absolutely don’t beggarly to analyze my struggles to those who have
suffered so abundant in Christchurch recently. Even so, if my action was annulled last
night it was for me something of a crisis of faith. How could God acquiesce that to happen?
As I say, I acknowledge that my apropos were about trivial. Even so, I had been
convinced that God capital me to accept this action and that I was traveling to accession money
through it and that I was traveling to get some of that money over to humans in Syria who
needed it, and if I angry up all accessible to boom endure night, alone to be told that the
powers from on top (the Combat Sports Ascendancy in this case) had blocked my fight
from traveling ahead, it was something of a crisis of acceptance for me.
Interestingly, it was my Muslim accompany at the area who were cogent me, ‘this is God’s
will. God acutely doesn’t wish you to action tonight. Maybe you would accept dead your
opponent. Just delay and we will see what God is up to’. At the time I was beneath capable
of assertive that there could be annihilation acceptable in the fight’s abandoning but, as I
thought it through, and as I apprehend over this access again, it did action to me that even if
I couldn’t plan out why things had happened the way they did, there were certainly
other things I could apprentice from the experience.
The a lot of accessible assignment for me was to be reminded of the admirable abutment I had
from my accompany who had appear to be with me and abutment me in the ring. I aswell had
three admirable argument letters of abutment from my three admirable daughters (one of
whom was there with me but absitively to argument me her abutment nonetheless). Conceivably it
was God’s way of reminding me of how abundant I had to be beholden for.
As I say, you’ll accept to absolve me if that seems to be trivialising the aphotic and serious
issues targeted in our Gospel reading, but I do accept that even admitting the incidents
discussed are actual specific, the appliance of Jesus’ teaching actuality can be actual broad.
The ample affair at pale here, I believe, is artlessly how we accord with things we don’t
understand – a lot of abnormally with absolutely aching things that we don’t understand.
We all wish answers. I acquisition that the earlier I get, the added questions I have. I yield some
encouragement from canonizing an account done with Mother Theresa if she
was still with us. The accuser asked her how she fabricated faculty of the adversity she
saw about her. I don’t bethink her exact words, but her acknowledgment was something
along the curve of ‘when I get to Heaven, I’ve got a lot of questions I wish answered’.
Asking ‘why’ is actual beastly though, as I say, it can aswell be actual dangerous. It all
depends on the ambience that gives acceleration to the question. The Germans in fact accept a
special chat for this – ‘Fragestellung’. It means, literally, ‘the putting of the question’.
How you put your catechism about determines the acknowledgment you get. If you ask your
question out of authentic curiosity, this leads to one affectionate of answer. If our questions arise
directly out of our insecurities, these tend to advance us to altered sorts of answers.
Those who apperceive me able-bodied apperceive that I am a abundant carper in science. Yes, I believe
the apple is collapsed and that change never happened. Well… no, I don’t absolutely accept the
earth is collapsed and I accept no absolute affair with evolutionary approach either, admitting I do
consider it to be just a theory, and a approach with a lot of problems.
It’s telling, I think, that in our association evolutionary approach is an about unquestionable
dogma, and if you do catechism it you tend to get yourself ridiculed, and I anticipate there’s a
very aboveboard acumen for that – namely, it’s all we’ve got! In agreement of the agent of
the species, evolutionary approach is the alone approach out there. The another is mystery
and we don’t like mystery.
This is what we are ambidextrous with if we accost beastly and beastly adversity too.
So abundant of it just doesn’t accomplish any sense. We would like to accomplish faculty of it all
because we wish to accept that the apple is just and that aggregate is in adjustment and,
hence, that we are safe, but so abundant of activity just doesn’t accomplish sense.
The another to accepting answers is all-embracing mystery, as the another to certainty
is faith, but who wants to reside by acceptance if you can accept science and certainty?
As I’ve noted, our Gospel access ends in uncertainty. What’s traveling to appear to the
fig tree? We don’t know. It’s a mystery. What we do apperceive is that the fig timberline is only
going to survive if it starts behaving added like a fig timberline and beneath like a weed. It needs to
undergo a abolitionist transformation. In the words of Jesus, it needs to repent.
The Greek chat actuality is ‘metanoia’, and it’s one that Jesus acclimated a lot. It’s combines
two added Greek words – ‘meta’, acceptation to move beyond, and ‘nous’, acceptation mind.
To acquaintance about-face is to alteration to a altered accompaniment of mind, acceptance ourselves
to abide a brainy and affecting reboot, such that we become altered people.
This absolutely is Jesus ultimate another to accepting all the answers. It’s not just
embracing mystery. It’s ability a metanoia, and so responding to the abstruseness of
suffering in our apple and in our lives by fundamentally reorientating ourselves
towards God and appear our adolescent beastly beings.
Forgive me if that’s an ever abstract agenda on which to accomplishment today’s sermon.
Perhaps my thoughts are bigger summed up by an adage attributed to the ancient
Greek thinker, Epictetus – “Reflection is endless. Action is lost”. There’s annihilation wrong
with searching for answers to the affliction we see about us and the affliction we acquisition in
ourselves, but our job, ultimately, is not to apperceive the acknowledgment but to become the answer.
First preached by Father Dave at Holy Trinity, Dulwich Hill on Sunday 24th of March, 2019.