Sermon at St James, Colwall, 16 February 2020
Genesis 1; Romans 8:18-30
To listen to the recording of the sermon as you read:
With the wind and rain raging outside let’s indulge in a flight of fancy and imagine a lovely day in early spring. The sun is shining and you step out of your house for a short walk in the fresh air. A blackbird sings lustily perched on the top of a hedge, snowdrops lighten a few bare patches of ground and there’s a glimpse of a primrose or two. Even daffodils are trying to make a show and the hills glow in the distance. It’s a beautiful world.
And then you remember all the other things that you enjoy – the love of family and friends, the miracle of childbirth and children, music which lifts your soul and art and hobbies and travel. It’s a wonderful world.
But the recent storms remind us of the other side of reality. If we switch on the radio or television or glance at the day’s newspaper we are reminded of a deadly virus killing hundreds of people in China and elsewhere; young men stabbing each other in the street; the abuse of innocent children; refugee families with nothing and nowhere to call their own; as well as the storms and floods ruining people’s lives and happiness. It no longer looks like a wonderful world. It’s an ugly world and the problem of pain and evil for a believer in God reveals itself. If God is all-loving, he would want to make the world a better place and if he is all-powerful, he would be able to – but, but he doesn’t.
Well, a part of an answer may lie in the freedom which we enjoy, the freedom to do good or to do evil. We human beings do cause much of the world’s ugliness, but it is not a complete answer.
Today’s first reading was the familiar, simple story of Creation from Genesis 1. God said, “let there be light, and there was light and God saw that it was good…” right through to the sixth day when God saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very good.
The writer shared our love of our wonderful, beautiful world.
But then our second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans has a different take on things. Paul is writing against the background of Roman oppression and persecution which makes his readers frightened and feeling crushed. He writes of the sufferings of this present time and that the whole creation is groaning in travail like a woman in labour awaiting a birth. And, he admits, each of us groans inwardly as we wait, hardly knowing how to pray as we ought with so much anxiety around us.
The message Paul has for his readers is a positive one because he expects everything to be resolved. The whole creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God because God is working for the good of those who love him. Remember that Paul was probably expecting a second coming of Jesus in his near future. This was the expectation of the Early Church.
Since this has not happened what do we, living so far on from St Paul’s time, make of all this? It’s not easy and it’s not easy because we can feel isolated and bemused in this secular, materialist world. The life of faith requires a lot of persistence and trust and determination and hope and prayerfulness and patience because we cannot allow anything to separate us from the love of Christ. We have to keep going.
And this is where our Gospel reading for today comes into play. Our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew tells us not to be anxious about our lives and to look at the birds of the air and to consider the lilies of the field – even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. We have to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and then we must not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
We human beings have a limited view, a limited perspective. We are looking as though through a darkened piece of glass and at some time we shall see face to face when all is revealed.
So, on the one hand “All things bright and beautiful” and on the other hand, “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.”