Overcoming evil with love
Thu 19 November 2015
This sermon was preached at the Memorial Service held at Goulburn Cathedral, Thursday 19 November 2015.
From the Garrissa, Kenya, student massacre, through to the sickening suicide bombings in Paris, we are being saturated with news of extremist terror attacks almost daily.
In the past six weeks, I’m aware of atrocities in Baghdad, Kabul, Ankara, Chad, Borno (Nigeria), Beirut, the Russian Metrojet over Egypt...and so it goes.
Hundreds of lives have, in my view, been calculatingly struck down in what The Guardian correspondent, Giles Frazer, recently described as, ‘the third world war’ (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/sep/12/this-third-world-war-this-time-we-on-fringes).
And so as the world watches in disbelief – and mourns the lost, like you, I am appalled by callous, indiscriminate, wholesale murder; indeed following ISIS’ capture of Iraq’s largest ‘Christian’ city, Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said, ‘Now we consider [this to be] genocide – ethnic cleansing.’ (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/08/isis-persecution-iraqi-christians-genocide-asylum).
It is a tragic irony that as we mark the centenary of the start of the ‘war to end all wars’, we are, in 2015, exposed to footage of barbaric executions, beheadings...wholesale slaughter. Has nothing changed in 100 years?
Here we are back in France, as it were, and the pall (and stench) of death hangs heavily.
Frenchman Blaise Pascal observed way back in the 1650’s, ‘men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction’.
Therein lays the tragedy.
Much of the disequilibrium – the ‘evil’, we’re experiencing across our global village is informed (or misinformed) by so-called religious values and convictions that do not embrace diversity, tolerance, generosity and grace.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, made the poignant observation(s) this week:
‘The sorrow in Paris is heart breaking and the evil of those who planned and perpetrated the Paris atrocities are beyond measure or words. We weep with the victims and with the bereaved. France is deeply wounded but will prevail with that courage and strength she has always shown. Wherever there is such wickedness Christ suffers afresh in the suffering of every human being. In solidarity let us be the source of consolation. The violence of this evil group brings terror to all, including in the Muslim world where its cowardly acts are opposed by many. This is a global and generational struggle against an evil cult that chooses death and fear. We choose life and hope, to overcome their hate with the power of God's love. In solidarity across all faiths and none, and with all human beings, rather than in the victimisation of any, we will find the way to defeat the demonic curse of terrorism. Christians are called, like Jesus, to stand with the suffering and broken and to oppose evil and fear with all their strength.’ - http://www.anglicanink.com/article/statement-archbishop-canterbury-paris-isis-bombings#sthash.9h5e72nF.dpuf
And as we stand with the suffering and broken, my prayer is that as a community we will continue in being generous and hospitable to the thousands of displaced persons bound for our shores – many of whom – most of whom (whatever their creed), are fleeing exactly that which we decry and eschew.
St. Paul (no stranger to torture and violence) lays down the challenge thus (in Romans 12):
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another.
And the motivation for such beneficence is found in – as the reading from Romans 8 so beautifully has it: the love of God that is in Christ Jesus Our Lord – a reference to Jesus’ willingness to give his life for a world racked with enmity and despair.
Let me close with a section of a French prayer (from 1912). It will be familiar to some of you and you may wish to echo it in your heart (whatever your religious convictions...)
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Amen. (Source: La Clochette, 12, déc. 1912, p. 285.)