Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Struggling with failure and success

Although we may try to inoculate ourselves
against pain, suffering and the effects of evil
this is not possible in this life
reading for Sunday 3rd October 2009: The 18th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16. Plenty of good readings for each day!
Most of us at times are overwhelmed by the sense of things going wrong in our lives.
The readings for this week tap into some of the most common and obvious tragedies that ordinary human beings face
Job, a man of legendary faith, has to deal with sickness in his own life and tragedy in his family.
The letter to the Hebrews is written to a church which feels itself in great danger and constantly under threat of persecution
The Gospel opens up the question of what divorce might mean in people's lives
and in reminding us about the great treasure that small children are
almost every week we are faced with the awfulness of people who abuse the trust of children committed to their care

So we might (and do) ask:
Where is God in all this?
Is the all powerful God not really in control?
The traditional, but not necessarily satisfying, answer is that
much evil is due to our own wilfulness
and it is wrong and innacurate (even though tempting)
to lay it at the feet of God.
God did not cause a maniac to shoot young girls,
or war criminals to torture and rape
But we need to ask the legitimate question:
why does God permit these things?
(Perhaps we also need to realise, too, that
this is also not a correct way of naming this issue and that
God does not permit it either!
But we do insist on inflicting it!)
God does not stand in the way of our wilfulness.
To do so would be to cause individuals to become little more than robots.
But we are more dynamically and powerfully created than that,
this is because above all else we are created to love.
In order to be able to love
we have to be able to choose to do it.
Love that is not freely chosen is not love,
it may be blackmail,
or bribery or selfish seeking of advantage
but it is not love.
To love requires that we give ourselves unconditionally.
We cannot love and say.....
I will love you if you love me
We cannot say I will love you as long as things are going along OK
To give any meaning to love at all means
that we give and do not count the cost.
This is hard stuff
at times we find that we will fail
which is why in our system of belief there needs to be scope for forgiveness and repentance.
We will sometimes get it wrong,
we will sometimes be betrayed.
We will sometimes be the betrayer.
As with all these things we see in the life of Jesus
love demonstrated dramatically.
And we see there persecution and failure.
We see the need for forgiveness and the need to start again.

This week
As we reflect on our human relationships:
where are we called to give this unconditional love?
Do we hold ourselves back?
Is there a way we can be more open, more vulnerable?
Are there aspects of failure and wilfulness in our loving relationships
that we need to seek forgiveness for
are there places where the strategy is repentance
we might interpret that as meaning weighing up the failure of the past
and looking for a small way to begin again?
I do not suggest that this is easy, or without cost.
It is indeed, very costly?
In seeing our failure to love
the question is not so much why are we and others so bad at this
but will we keep on trying to love unconditionally


Anonymous said...

Good stuff Stephen

stephen clark said...

someone did ask me whether or not I was going to preach about divorce this is a question for a separated priest!
It seems to be faithful to the substance of this homily, the preacher can't avoid the difficulties of their own life