A sermon preached
Readings: Ps 42-43, Jn 1:29-37
we read the papers this week and saw the carnage in Madrid,
it would have been easy to despair, to cry out,
as indeed I susepct more than one mourner may have done,
”Why has God forsaken us?
Where is God’s love and care when we need him?”
I thought of that again as the choir were singing those
words from Psalm 42 -
“My tears have been my meat, day and night,
while they say to me all day long,
’Where now is your God?’……(Ps 42:3)
moving setting of words originally written -
well, actually we are not sure where they were originally written -
but quite likely in Babylon in exile.
the words were indeed first penned in Babylon,
they could equally have been wrung
from the heart of a grieving relative in Madrid this week –
As the writer says later on the Psalm:
…..Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
because my enemy oppresses me?” (Ps 42:9)
And yet the Psalm has a chorus -
Three times the Psalmist asks the question -
“Why are you
so downcast my soul?
And why so unquiet within me?
And each time the answer comes resounding back
“O put your
trust in the Lord,
for I will praise him yet
who is my deliverer and my God”
In other words,
”Babylon may have defeated Jerusalem,
My loved ones may be dead,
My life may be in tatters,
and yet still I praise God who shall deliver me!”
A word of hope to exiles in Babylon,
But equally a word of hope
· For mourners in Madrid,
· For those in Korea coping with this week’s political chaos -
· For those in Exeter for whom God seems suddenly very distant,
The message is the same:
“Trust in the Lord – He will deliver!”
Or in the words of the hymn we sang earlier –
“Lift your eyes to heaven,
from a world of chaos below….
“Lift your eyes to heaven,
To a living, life-giving Lord….”
But can God really be there in the Railway Station carnage?
The answer is, Yes, he can – and he is there as a Lamb –
Our Gospel reading and drama,
reminded us of John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and saying
“Behold, the Lamb of God”
For those who first heard John say this,
the image of Christ as a lamb
would have evoked a whole set of associations –
Jewish law told you that if you sinned and lost
touch with God,
then you were to sacrifice an “atoning lamb”
to put yourself right with God.
Or else you might drive a sheep or a goat into the
the original “scapegoat” or scapesheep,
taking your sins away,
suffering on your behalf, to satisfy God.
And so, when Christ offers himself as the lamb of sacrifice,
he is saying that God has turned
the whole sacrificial process on its head –
Instead of being the one who requires sacrifices,
God is now the one who makes, becomes, the sacrifice -
”Behold the Lamb of God”
Mel Gibson’s film “The
Passion of Christ”
will be on general release shortly.
It has provoked much discussion about its undoubtedly
gruesome and harrowing depiction of Christ’s suffering.
Is this, as some have said, gratuitous violence?
I think not – for the violence
and suffering of the cross is intrinsic
to the story of how God deals with evil.
For in the suffering of Christ we find
· To violence and suffering in our age,
· To the horrors of Madrid,
· To the heartache of the hospital ward and the hospice
· To the agony of hatred and violence
And God’s answer is a lamb –
The one who loves me enough to suffer alongside me and for me -
To accept the violence of the powers that be
and, through that acceptance,
turn that potentially destructive moment of hate
into a powerful moment of loving acceptance.
The Lamb of God suffers for me -
so that even in sin, suffering and death,
I am never separated from him.
“Where now is your God” asks the Psalmist
Maybe you know the story is told
of a concentration camp during WW2 –
a Jewish prisoner was put to the degrading task
of cleaning out the toilet trench –
forced to work literally waist deep in human excrement.
And so it was that the Nazi guard looked down
on the stinking filthy Jew and mockingly said -
And where is your God now?
reply came back from the latrine trench -
”Where is my God - He is right here beside me!”
And whatever depths we sink to,
there, everywhere, always, is the lamb, suffering alongside us.
And today we do a particularly important thing
in the life of this Church –
We formally welcome and commission
May Choi as our Korean pastor.
May I say a personal word
and gratitude to you May –
it has been a real joy to welcome you to our team here at the Mint –
We consider ourselves greatly
privileged and blessed
to have you ministering with us –
and we offer you our prayers and support
as you seek to develop the Lord’s work here with us.
And as you begin your work with us,
I remind you how John the Baptist
troubled crowds thronging towards him
and there in the midst of the crowd,
pointed to our Lord and said
“Behold the Lamb of God”.
And in every generation, in every land, from East to West,
Christ has set up servants to repeat those words,
and cry out ”Behold the lamb”
They are sounded in every land and in every tongue -
and as they are spoken, the one who speaks
always points away from himself and towards the Lamb –
Each crowd is different,
each one full of different trials and tribulations
and hatreds and heartaches ands sufferings –
But always there in the midst of every crowd, the Lamb of God.
For he is in every place if we will be see him and welcome him.
May: May your hand
to show all people the way to the Lamb –
such is your calling,
and we offer
you our support and prayers
as you seek to fulfil your calling amongst us.
William Blake famously asked,
“And was the holy lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?”
Not, I think, in the literal sense
of a visit during his earthly ministry –
And yet still he walks our land, and every land,
If we will be see him.
We all live in a dark world,
Where green & pleasant pastures
have been corrupted and polluted.
But in every land we are called to build Jerusalem –
the City of God - amidst the dark Satanic mills.
And so, when things go terribly wrong
in our lives,
in our nation,
in our world,
We may seem so very far from the heavenly City.
But behold –
Do you not see him in your midst?
The very Lamb of God,
his blood and tears mingling with your own?
The Lamb who shares our suffering.
And know this –
He will remain with us through every dark night,
Until finally we are brought into the glorious light of his presence,
And we behold the Lamb – the Lamb upon the Throne!