Sermons on Evil
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson 4 Epiphany Year B 2018 January 28, 2018 I was fascinated with the variety of expressions on the faces depicted in various places in the Holy Land of those who had seen Jesus, the living incarnation of the holy, the Son of God, and the source of our salvation. In each of the places where Jesus had been, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Jericho and of course Jerusalem, there were mosaics, frescos, paintings and…
Because Jesus stayed in the tomb, contained with the earth, with the massive round stone rolled across its entrance, Jesus sanctified, made holy, saturated with the presence of God, the darkened container he was put in, and therefore sanctified all the darkened containers we put ourselves into. But the point of the story of Jesus is that he didn’t stay there. And his resurrection invites and implores us not to stay there either. God’s mercy, love, and compassion draw us into these places of alienation and disconnect. We resist going there often, sometimes by saying, “We’ve always done it that way” as a reason not to move into that place of uncertainty, where the old begins to fade away before we can see the new. Or sometimes we resist the draw into exile because it’s easier to fortify the sides of our containers with bolstered arguments or fiery threats. But the pattern of faithful living, that paschal mystery we often speak of, moves us into a place of exile, of self-reflection, of noticing the places of disconnect between what God has asked of us and what we are doing, to the land, or in our lives, or in our relationship with God, for they are all connected, of acknowledging what we have done or left undone that has caused harm. But then the Spirit turns us again toward God, when God’s mercy, love, and compassion can strip from us all that we have falsely created, to return us to what God has created within and around us. If we listen closely enough, in these times of exile, which our own lives may be in now, or our country may be in right now, we can hear God’s voice saying, “Come and see, I am bringing you to a new way of experiencing me. Come and see.”
I am proposing to you that to hate, as to love, is meant in the Bible to be more than a feeling within our hearts, but rather that which invokes appropriate action. There’s a wonderful plaque at Holy Cross Monastery which says, “Love must act as light must shine as fire must burn”. When we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we are not being called to have a warm fuzzy feeling for everyone in the world, but rather we are to act in this world as God acts with us, with compassion, mercy, and always toward justice. When we are called to hate evil, we are not called only to have a passionate dislike for someone or something, we are to act to resist and eradicate that which is evil in this world.
I remember a lot of that morning. I remember all of the staff in the rector’s office, huddled around a small TV, some of us pacing, others of us sitting with our heads in our hands, others of us drastically trying to reach family members who worked in the Pentagon. The priests began gathering their prayer books to plan the funeral mass they would offer at noon that day for the victims. From this place of utter darkness, smoldering despair, utter disbelief in the depravity of humankind, and an abiding sense of the presence of evil which was consuming my soul, I walked out into the bright blue autumn sky. It was beautiful and it was memorable. It was a day you would have loved to be sitting outside, turning your face, like a sunflower, into the sun, soaking up the goodness and grace the world offered. The contrast of this scene to the events we witnessed inside that morning on TV was stunning and revelatory: there was still light in the world that even the worst of actions could not extinguish.
We want there to be a seamlessness between God’s Word and our very being, and to do that, we need to sit with, study, and know with our heart, God’s Word.
Yet, over and over again we learn from the tradition of the church and each other’s experiences that when we keep God at the center of our lives things work better. When we follow the way of Christ, life works better! Things work better because we become more aware of how precious our limited amount of time on earth is. Things work better because we become more aware of those around us and their needs and desires. Things work better as we focus more on God and less on the self-inflicted things that trip us up.