Becoming the Answer (A Sermon on Luke 13:1-9)

“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.

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