A sermon preached
Readings Jeremiah 18:13-17, Luke 1:67-80
wind from the east,
I will scatter them before their enemies
If you have been watching the current BBC serialization of
“Bleak House”, you will have heard Mr Jarndyce say
on more than one difficult or anxious occasion
“The wind is in the East” –
by saying which he is not referring to the weather
but to the situation he is in –
when things are going badly he invariably comments
“I fear the wind is set in the East again”
Indeed Dickens’ original working title for “Bleak House”
was “The West Wind” –
and without giving too much of the plot away
to those who don’t know it,
that tells you something of how things will ultimately work out well
for at least some of the characters in next week’s final episodes.
need to work for the Met office
to know that in this country for us as for Dickens
the East Wind came off the North Sea
and often straight from the Russian steppes –
and in winter that can mean bitter weather,
so different from the potentially balmy air coming in with the gulf stream
from a south westerly.
meteorology of Israel is quite different –
but for the OT prophets an East Wind was also seldom good news.
In a land often desperately short of water,
the hot dry easterly wind often blasted in from the arid deserts of Iraq and Iran,
contrasting with the gentler more humid wind
blowing in off the Mediterranean in the West.
So John Jarndyce of Bleak House would have empathised
with the prophet Jeremiah when he chastises the Israelites for their sins,
and warns them that unless they mend their ways
they will be scattered by their enemies as if before an East Wind.
This week most of the world leaders have signed up
to the extension of the Kyoto Protocol (albeit without the USA).
Our efforts as a world to address climate change is a
at a very literal level, that if as a world community
we play fast and loose with the planet, its winds and its waves,
we will horribly distort the delicate balance of our God given world
and so reap the consequences of our irresponsible actions.
course when the prophets of Israel speak of the wind of judgement,
they are not talking literally about climate change -
they are talking more broadly about all the sins of the people –
their chasing after false gods, their lack of care for justice and for the poor.
Act like this, says the prophet,
and metaphorically you will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
The outcome of such callous selfishness will be disaster –
Israel’s enemies will destroyed as if by a raging east wind.
Or as Mr Jarndyce might have put it,
when men think and act foolishly the wind ever veers to the East
and we all suffer as a consequence.
in history we have recognized God’s judgement
but conveniently assumed it can only fall on our enemies.
When the Spanish Armada was finally destroyed
by storms off the Scottish coast,
Queen Elizabeth had medals struck to commemorate the event,
with the words “God blew with his winds and they were scattered”
advent we need to remember that,
be it the hot sirocco or the bitter Siberian wind,
the wind of judgement comes not just on those we perceive to be our enemies.
In 1688 the fleet of William of Orange was awaiting to
sail to England
where William was to mount an attack on James II.
The supporters of William and James both prayed
for the wind they needed to help their cause.
William prayed for a “Protestant Wind” –
that is an Easterly which would blow his fleet towards English waters.
James conversely prayed for a “Catholic Wind” from the West –
which would keep the Dutch in port
whilst allowing Catholic Irish troops to
make sail from Dublin
to support the King.
is not a Protestant nor a Catholic,
nor is he Dutch or Spanish, Irish or English.
the God of all, and has given us this world to make of it as we will –
an Eden or a Wilderness, a place of peace or a place of pain.
God comes into our lives, we know (like the Israelites of old),
that he is always liable to come like a powerful wind
to seek out & destroy the sin and evil within us –
be it in this life, as our sin catches up with us,
or in the world to come - on the final Day of Judgement
Who could have predicted that our TV screens today
would be filed with the inferno
at the Hemel Hempstead Petrol Storage Depot?
Who could have guessed that the Met office
would be plotting wind direction to see
who was downwind of the smoke and fire?
reminds us time and again that we must be ready for the wind and the fire –
we never know when it will come.
But there is more to say this Advent.
At Advent we think of the coming of God into our lives.
We need to recognize that he comes (in Mr Jardynce’s terms)
both as the East Wind and the West wind.
He comes both to judge and to save.
It was Reinhold Niebuhr who famously said that the role of
is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
is what proclaiming the Gospel is all about –
proclaiming judgement and promising salvation for a sinful people.
We do not
proclaim the Gospel of Jeremiah or the Gospel of John the Baptist –
we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christ we await comes not just in the wind and the fire –
he comes too, he comes most of all
in the still small voice of a babe crying in Bethlehem.
and every advent we await his coming amongst us
not only to judge but also to save.
“What is the real meaning of Christmas and of the Cross and of Easter –
what is the Gospel all about?
Well it is this –
that from stable to cross Christ is with us in our sin and failure –
even unto death itself.
does not keep safe in heaven above –
he comes to be with us amidst the wind and the fire.
the wind of judgement is rightly upon us, and we feel –
as one day we all will –
that all is up with is and we are shown before God for what we are,
and feel that the wind of God’s righteousness will blow us clean away –
then will we know that God himself stoops down
and stands beside us in the very eye of the storm
recall how our Lord was aboard ship with the disciples on Galilee –
and the winds blew and the waves mounted,
the fishermen feared for their very lives.
And Christ awaking stilled the storm with a word -
they were safe for he was with them.
This advent be prepared for the
wind of judgement-
but ultimately do not fear –
for Christ is there in the storm –
and see, lo –
even the winds and the waves obey him!