Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Shock and Awe: a microsermon* for the Feast of St. Willibrord (Nov. 7)

A Microsermon* preached by the Rev. Jason A. Fout
on the Feast of St. Willibrord, November 7, 2006
in the chapel of Selwyn College
Matthew 2.1-12

"King Herod will search out the child in order to kill it." So said the angel in its warning to the Holy Family in tonight's gospel lesson. A miraculous birth; homage paid by foreigners; a threatened sovereign. All of this then leads to what is known as the slaughter of the innocents, had we carried on reading inthe gospel. King Herod feels threatened by a rival, and so he ruthlessly eliminates all possible opposition in what must have seemed at the time like an awesome display of power. It is clear that he will brook no rivals, no matter the cost. No doubt he was able to justify it to himself in terms of safety and security: he was not merely being selfish, the rationale might go, he was looking out for the welfare of the people. Irresistible, overwhelming power: this is what we find on offer with King Herod. And pardon me for what might sound like an advertisement, but it seems to me that the whole world shops at Herod’s.

The Christian gospel presents us with an alternative, heard perhaps dimly in the reading from Isaiah tonight, but there nonetheless. It is not a gospel of overwhelming power that will eliminate any opposition; it does not mimic the world’s selfish, ultimately destructive power that we see in Herod.

As we find in Isaiah, God confronts us in the strongest possible terms about our injustice, our unrighteousness, our selfishness, our wickedness. There is a bracing honesty here. We who were intended for so much more find ourselves enmeshed in sin. But it does not stop there, for we are confronted not merely with our wickedness, but just as strongly with God’s loving, patient determination to set things to rights. The other show doesn’t fall: we aren’t destroyed or condemned, but given a promise of restoration. We are given a promise that, through Jesus Christ, we may participate in this restoration even now. And as we are restored, we learn to do things in a very different way: with our friends, family and colleagues; in the laboratory or lecture hall; in business, in government, or wherever we find ourselves. No longer are we beholden to the ways of Herod and the world, which need to find their security in overwhelming power to destroy the unacceptable or protect against the unthinkable. Rather, we are invited to use what power we have so that others might be restored to righteousness, that all people might be well served in the world, and that the whole creation might live to the praise of God’s glory. Amen.

*Selwyn College has a tradition of preaching a 'microsermon', a brief, roughly three minute sermon, at the close of the service of Evensong.


Blogger PV said...

Great to meet a fellow pulpiteer.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 8:08:00 AM  

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