08 Nov Third Sunday Before Advent
Filmed at Christ Church Colliers Wood
President and Preacher: Revd Alison Judge
Organist: Irene Clugston
Download the order of service.
Download the reading for this Sunday.
Have you ever been arrested? It’s probably not a question one would usually hear in polite society when there might be the shame of a criminal act, or the pain of a wrongful arrest. However it is not an usual question among the activists who are currently in Glasgow at COP26 or others around the world protesting against the lack of government action in response to the Climate Emergency.
Our gospel reading starts, “after John was arrested.” It sounds almost conversational, indeed there is no preamble, Mark’s mention of John moves from John baptising Jesus to the stark statement ‘after John was arrested’. But, of course, we know that there is so much more bound up in that short phrase. John’s courage and conviction to proclaim the good news and call people to repentence was no easy thing, it took his whole energy and determination. And we know that John’s arrest eventually led to his execution, he gave everything.
Should I be comparing John the Baptist with Climate Activists – there is a debate to have over coffee after church! It seems to me the major similarity in both cases is that those involved are arrested for the ideals that they live by. In both cases they feel that there is no alternative to what they are doing. John lived out his calling, living in the wildnerness, gatheringcrowdstohearhispreachingofrepentence. Theactivists,thatchoosetoallow themselves to be arrested, also feel that this is what they must do, to proclaim to those in authority a need for repentence to save the planet.
This sort of calling is hard. In our first reading we hear about Jonah. God asks him to do something and he thinks – Oh heck that sounds tough and he
Living God’s way takes effort and deliberation. I don’t think for one moment that Simon and Andrew, James and John simply got up immediately and followed Jesus, like a dog following a well loved master.
In the same way that ‘after John had been arrested’, had a complicated back story I am sure thatthisactioncameaftermuchthought. Thebrothershadprobablybeentalkingitover amongst themselves, weighing up Jesus words and their own plans for the future – the sea of Galilee was abundant in fish, they had a good business, they were the hope of their parents. Following Jesus was a big decision to do. He goes to tell the people that God has seen their wickedness. Well none of us skedadles. But God persists with Jonah and eventually he cannot escape and he goes to Ninevah, as God has asked him likes to be told that we are wrong, do we? Most of us like to think we are fully justified in living in just the way that suits us.
But the challenge of the gospel, for us, is that we are called to live in God’s way as revealed to us in the life of Jesus.
John, Jonah, Christian Climate Activists, Disciples – all have had to make big decisions to follow the call of our creator God, to speak out for the Good News, or for the transformation of the world by God’s Kingdom Values.
So it is challenging but we have to find the way. The way is through faith and faithfulness. I was talking to someone this week about whether COP26 or indeed our own Merton Council are going to do anything that will succeed in bringing down polution and allowing the planet to heal. Nothing is happening, it seems. But perhaps it is not for us to judge what is happening. All we can do what we can and be faithful in prayer – praying for God’s action,Godleadingthoseinpowertorepentandmeetthechallengeofourage. Thisweek Christ Church will be open each evening [Monday to Friday] from 5-6pm for prayers for the planet. We need to align our hearts and minds in prayer with God our creator who calls us to follow him.
From our first reading:
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”
That’s what happened in Ninevah.
Please hear this, I do not believe that God is going to destroy the world through climate change, it is human beings who are doing this. But I do believe that it is God who will bring about the healing. So please keep this in your hearts and in prayer.