I am not one for publishing sermons, I think they are intended for a particular place and time, however several people have asked about my sermon this morning, including someone who wasn’t even there but heard second hand, so here it is. Please remember it was meant to be heard not read. I did set the alarm which did ring, although not at the place the alarm is mentioned in the sermon.
No man is an island, entire of itself, – so begins John Donne’s famous poem.
Later in our Eucharistic prayer we will underline that as we declare we are united as one with all our brothers and sisters living and departed. Christ time and time again spoke of all people being one through him. No man, woman or child is an island.
As we left church last Sunday, across the other side of the world someone made the decision to make their way to the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. As we went in the peace of Christ, they chose to phone law enforcement and declare that they too were acting in the name of God, but peace was the last thing on their minds. We are all painfully aware of what happened, or are we?
Donne’s poem, No man is an island ends with these words.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
This event was bad enough in itself however on Thursday another gun crime shattered any illusion, that we this side of the Atlantic, were somehow immune from such terror.
Intolerance, homophobia, bigotry, hatred of any kind has no place in either the love of God or in civilized society. Jesus tells the listening crowd you cannot hate someone and in the next breathe claim to love God; you cannot cry, Lord, Lord, and then deny God’s presence in those you disagree with – you cannot love your neighbour if you then put conditions upon just who your neighbour is allowed to be. You cannot do these things and then call yourself a follower of Christ.
Paul in today’s epistle and in other places reminds those earlier followers of Christ, that the ways of the past are gone, the law should be viewed only in the light of Christ. There is no longer them and us, no longer can anyone say I am more Christ-like than you, no longer can anyone say because you are a woman, a slave, coloured, LGBT, underprivileged, uneducated you are somehow unclean, unworthy. To be treated as lesser in God’s eyes or in ours. No longer can we say that someone doesn’t matter, because of their opinions, because of the views they may hold which are different to ours. Christ came to bring justice for all, those who are different from us, who have different priorities from us don’t deserve second rate justice their struggles should not be inconsequential to our lives.
Of course this is what all those who knew her have said that Jo Cox believed in, she stood up for justice for all, for the marginalized and voiceless, and there will always be those who don’t like that, because rather than seeing the benefit for all they focus in on what they might loose out on. However we must be careful, for as Jesus tells us, you can not condemn a murderer and hold hatred in your heart. Hate and murder are bedfellows, yes one is the extreme of the other, but both Jesus makes clear are not things that should be the marks of a Christian.
Each man, woman, child’s death has an impact on others, when someone stands in the name of God and lets bullets fly from the gun they are holding into human flesh, those deaths should impact on our lives, even if they happen on the other side of the world or to someone we don’t know.
While both attacks this week involved guns, we cannot write either of them off as mere gun crime. In both cases hatred and the lack of acceptance for those who were different produced violent results. These were extreme actions, however, increasingly the world is turning from a place of tolerance of other people and other ideas into one of expressed hatred for those holding differing views or ideas. Increasingly the creed appears to be if you don’t agree with someone,
hurt them with words,
hurt them through a hate campaign,
hurt them by besmirching they character,
hurt them physically with fist, knife or bullet.
Those death knells toll for us, for the society we wish to live in, the world we wish to inhabit, for those deaths and injuries diminished us.
Any man’s, and woman’s death diminishes me, diminishes us,
Because I am involved in mankind, we are all part of the human race,
Don’t ask who has died, whose death bell tolls, for as a child of God each one of those death knells tolls also for me, for you, for us.
It is a custom in the Jewish tradition that when someone dies all mirrors are shrouded during the shiva, the seven days following the death. Why, you may wonder. In both the Jewish or Christian traditions teach that we are created in the image of God that is in our essence, our dignity, our being, is of God’s likeness. So someone’s death in a mystic way diminishes the very image of the Creator in others. Death for the Jew represents a disruption of the relationship between creation and the living God. Each death diminishes us, because each death is painful to God who numbers the very hairs on our heads.
What we do and say post Orlando, post Batley, will show whether or not we truly believe that Christ came to bring freedom from oppression, to bring an end to judgemental ways and the dawn of freedom and justice for all. The tolling bell of those deaths should be like an alarm bell to us, a wake up call to get up and do something. Do all people deserve freedom, justice, peace, or only some, the ones most like us?
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Do we want the world that Christ came to proclaim, freedom for the captive, release for the oppressed, love for all neighbours. A world where hatred has no place, were peace and love reign, were understanding and tolerance weave a richness into our lives as we accept and recognise God in all people, even those who we might perceive as being different from ourselves. And wanting it, just what are we going to do about making it come about.
Or are we going to say – I am not going to speak out because I am not gay, or lesbian, or transgender, or bi-sexual. I am not uneducated, voiceless, oppressed or subjected to unjust conventions. I am not going to speak out and help those who are frightened by the future to understand that the future can be better and I am going to put you first to start to build that better future even though I don’t agree with you.
This is about justice if we want to pick and choose who gets justice in our society then we will live in an unjust society and sooner or later we too will find ourselves lacking the justice we seek. Just how can we claim, at the end of this service that we will go in peace to love and serve the Lord; if we don’t show that love to, and a will to serve, all people.
It is up to us, we can change the world by spreading love rather than hate, by spreading peace rather than discord, by spreading unity rather than exclusion. By loving our neighbour, whoever they are.
Or we can keep silent and let hate win.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, who sent your Son into the world to proclaim freedom, help us to fight for justice and freedom for all people not just for ourselves, help us not to take our freedoms for granted using them unwittingly to bind up others who are different from us. Guide us in your ways of love for all neighbours regardless of their creed, their gender, their colour or their sexual orientation. So that we and all people may be freed to see your glory in all things and live in the freedom your Son came to bring and bought with his own blood. May the Holy Spirit hover over the face of the earth as in creation uniting all things in and through you so you may look and not weep, but look and say: It is good. We pray this in the name of God Creator, Redeemer and Ruler of all. Amen.