Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bad things happen to good people



May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: 'why do bad things happen to people?' That seems to be the question that Jesus' disciples are asking him in today's Gospel. They have come to him, perhaps in some distress, telling him about the terrible thing that Pilate has done to some of their fellow Jews … a quite horrible thing … people who were in the middle of sacrificing in the Temple were slaughtered by the Romans so that their blood flowed and mixed with that of the animals they had brought for sacrifice … part of the concern of the disciples seems to be the idea that perhaps they are bad people who are being punished: why else would should a dreadful thing happen to them?

And perhaps we can't blame them for thinking like that … it is scary to think that bad things can happen to good people … and much more comforting to think that people bring bad things upon themselves in some way … because if you believe that, then you can also believe that if you lead a good life yourself, perfect and blameless in every way, then you will be protected from all harm in this life …

Jesus' answer to this idea is a resounding 'no.' He makes it plain that those people were no worse than anyone else … they didn't 'deserve' what happened to them … God wasn't punishing them … it is simply the way of the world … and if we don't understand why the world should be the way it is, then that is hardly surprising … in our Old Testament reading today, God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, says: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. You might say that that is putting things mildly when you consider that God, by an act of will, created our seemingly endless universe … and by that same will has sustained it in down through the billions of years it has been in existence.

But isn't it intriguing that Jesus doesn't say any of this? It is almost as if he takes it for granted that his followers should know this … & perhaps he does! Perhaps he expects his followers to already know the answers they have been given in Sacred Scripture to questions like this … for example, the whole point of the book Job is to make it clear that bad things to happen to good people … and that is something we simply must accept …

But what Jesus does tell them is a parable … a parable about a fig tree that has been given every chance to produce fruit and has failed … a tree whose master would be justified in ripping it out root and branch, and yet does not … he gives it more time …

In other words, Jesus is telling his disciples they are worrying about the wrong things. They are concerned about what may or may not what happen to them in this life … and in doing so they are missing the 'big picture' … which is whether during their time during this life they will be 'fruitful' … and having been fruitful attain everlasting life … the purpose of this life it to prepare us for heaven … not to have it easy here or to get wealthy or achieve power or fame … 


We have a woeful and quite dangerous tendency to measure success in this life in completely wrong terms … the wealthiest and most powerful man on the planet is a failure if at the end of his life he is judged wanting in God's eyes … and the poor and humble man who goes to his grave and is forgotten almost as soon as the last shovelful of earth is placed over him is a success if he is welcomed into God's presence at the end of his time in this life … the last shall be first and the first shall be last … having treasure in this world does not compare with having treasure in heaven …

Lent is our chance to re-focus our attention on what really matters: loving and obeying God so that at the last we will be with him in heaven … spending extra time in the discipline of study, prayer, and reflection that we might better learn his ways … and in fasting or self-denial that we might remind ourselves of how little the things of this world matter when compared with those of the next … it is a time of digging the soil around our roots that we might become and remain fruitful … a fruitfulness, my brothers and sisters, I hope you will pray that I will achieve … as I will pray for you in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon notes 3 March 2013 (3rd Sunday of Lent) 

No comments:

Post a Comment