Colin's sermon 31 Dec 2017
Donald Trump tweeted a lot in 2017 – but I won't go into that because we've all had quite enough of that already. I also won't go into North Korea's obsession with nuking other countries because its just too terrifying.
We've also had a bellyful of Brexit. I suspect that somewhere in the deepest pit of hell some fiend in the department of ironic punishments came up with an idea: "So they want Brexit do they? We'll give 'em Brexit – till it's coming out of their ears!"
Terrorism was the dominating news story early in the year:
• Bombing at a pop concert in Manchester arena. The artist giving the concert, Ariana Grande, has a huge following among young girls whom she encourages to be confident and strong. Sadly the result was that most of the victims were teenagers with all their lives before them.
• Hire cars were driven into crowds on Westminster Bridge and later London Bridge, followed by men running amok with knives, randomly killing innocent people.
• These wicked acts can only be described as utterly depraved. However the actions of the police and emergency services covered them with glory as they responded with great promptness and effectiveness.
But more people were killed through neglect, incompetence, penny pinching and indifference in the next disaster – the Grenfell flats fire. Seventy one people died very horribly. Unbelievably there was no ladder tall enough in the Greater London area for the fire service to get to the source of the fire, people fleeing the disaster by the tower's only staircase were ordered back into the building, there were no sprinklers, and the cladding (which should have been fireproofed if it hadn't cost a little more) actually caught fire and spread the blaze rapidly to the inaccessible upper floors. Grenfell was a death-trap and so are hundreds of other similar towers up and down the country. It is widely thought that Kensington Council weren’t bothered because it was social housing for people who in their view perhaps didn't matter very much.
• But they mattered to God! Church workers were very quickly on the scene offering comfort and support. Churches threw open their doors to provide emergency accommodation for those who were so traumatically made homeless.
I promised not to mention Brexit, didn't I? But this was the year when Teresa May asked the country to increase her majority. She wanted a stronger hand in dealing with those crafty Eurocrats! Pride comes before a fall, as the Good Book says. We all know how that election went. "Not another one!" Large numbers of seats were lost to the Labour party even though Jeremy Corbyn had been relentlessly portrayed as unelectable. Interestingly the young turned out in force to vote for him because they saw the election as an opportunity to tell the older generation that they don't like the kind of future we are forging for them… mountainous debts… short term low paid jobs… crippling housing costs…
More politics – Tim Farron was hounded and hounded on one particular issue until he was forced to resign as leader of the liberal democrats. He commented that it was no longer possible in today's Britain for a Christian to lead a political party. That is an indictment of a so called liberal society where everyone is tolerated – except the people we don't want to tolerate. Sadly those unwanted people are more and more – guess who - the Christians.
More bad news for the Church came when 2017 polls on UK social attitudes showed that fewer and fewer people identify as Christians while more and more identify as "no religion." I wonder where this loss of the shared values which have formed the roots of our culture for hundreds of years is going to take us. I have a very bad feeling about this.
But I think the biggest story of 2017 is the one that began with Harvey Weinstein. More and more revelations came out from women he had harassed and exploited. As this powerful man fled for cover there seemed to come a once in a generation change. All over the world women rose up and said they had had enough. The Me Too campaign showed that the number of women who have faced sexual ordeals at the hands of evil minded men is outrageously high. The wave of anger reached our own Parliament and toppled men who had assumed that power gave them an entitlement to women's compliance. Christians can only welcome this. Christian prohibitions on adultery and lust were always about protecting people from exploitation and when we threw off those restrictions in the 1960s and 70s we took a dangerous gamble – and lost.
I'm going to finish this survey with 3 items of Good News:-
• Prince Harry got engaged to Megan: Megan is to be baptised and confirmed in the Christian faith before the wedding and is taking it very seriously
• Raqqa has fallen and with it the IS goal of creating a caliphate in the area they believed God had indicated to them. They will of course resurface elsewhere but their primary objective is lost and God did not help them as their wicked and depraved leaders had promised them. The world should rejoice over this setback for the enemies of humanity.
• In spite of all the Brexit doom and gloom the British stock market ended the year on an all time high! How did that happen?
But finally, as Christians, how do we respond to all this? What kind of disciples do we have to be to cope with this confusing and sometimes frightening world? Here are four options:
• Be Courageous! Have faith! There are good news stories in there as well as bad. God is still in charge. Stand up for what you believe in. It's not enough to sit in the pew and keep quiet, Christianity will vanish from our land if we do that. Our society needs to hear from us because it is falling to pieces without us!
• Don't respond with anger to a hate-filled world, or you will become like them. As the Bible says, "render no-one evil for evil, but overcome evil with good."
• Model Unity. The picture of 2017 is of a deeply divided society: women against men, old against young, haves against have nots, Muslims being made out to be terrorists, Christians being made out to be bigots, in the frenzy poured out on social media. We can show the world something different: Men and women, old and young, rich and poor, black and white, we are one in Christ. Let's love one another!
• Put compassion into action. The actions of those Christians who came out and cared for people who'd lost everything in the Grenfell disaster spoke more loudly than words. We can do that, not only when there's an emergency but by being there for people in the slow disasters of loneliness, bereavement, illness and poverty.
Yes folks, it's Bishop Steven's challenges to us all over again. Are we prepared to me more Contemplative? Compassionate? Courageous? More Christ-like? Are you up for the challenge in 2018?