Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I've just received a message from someone saying, "help, I'm preaching on Easter Sunday - and I'm scared." It is from a 'lay person', as the Church so quaintly puts it. (Laos simply means "the people of God", but they are not quite special enough for some!). Many clergy, I fear, are too anaesthetised to think like that. But Caroline is right. There is a terror to the Easter message, and it has nothing to do with resurrection as a 'get out clause'. We will come to that issue later. First, thanks to Rob Telford, I chanced upon Kim Fabricius's passionate Palm Sunday sermon, Lose Your Faith. There's a we bit of, um, overkill here, maybe (aagh... I can be very English), but the assault on sentimental religion and the recognition of Jesus' death as an assault on false gods, many of them perpetuated in his name, is sound. I have often described Christianity, rightly understood, as the most effective way of not believing the kind of nonsense perpetuated by so much religion, Christian religion included. But in the pity is also the possibility, the echo of a future not our own. That, rather than the consolation of magic, is where we en up later in the week. Meanwhile, Kim writes that the Cross invites us to:

'Lose your faith in the god that the cross exposes as a no-god, a sham god. Lose your faith in the god who is but the product of your projections, fantasies, wishes, and needs, a security blanket or good-luck charm god. Lose your faith in the god who is there to hold your hand, solve your problems, rescue you from your trials and tribulations, the deus ex machina, literally the “machine god”, wheeled out onto the stage in ancient Greek drama, introduced to the plot artificially to resolve its complications and secure a happy ending. Lose your faith in the god who confers upon you a privileged status that is safe and secure. Lose your faith in the god who promises you health, wealth, fulfilment, and success, who pulls rabbits out of hats. Lose your faith in the god with whom your conscience can be at ease with itself. Lose your faith in the god who, in Dennis Potter’s words, is the bandage, not the wound. Lose your faith in the god who always answers when you pray and comes when you call. Lose your faith in the god who is never hidden, absent, dead, entombed. For the “Father who art in heaven” – this week he is to be found in hell...

'No one puts it more starkly – or more honestly and truthfully – than Bonhoeffer. We must recognize, he wrote from prison, “that we have to learn to live in the world ‘as if God were not here’. And this is just what we do recognize – before God! God himself compels us to recognize it… God would have us know that we must live as men and women who manage our lives without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us… Before God and with God we live without God. God lets himself be pushed out of the world and onto the cross” – and then down from the cross and into the grave. “He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us.” God a Super-Power? That god is a demon, the devil. If that god is your Lord, this week is a call for “regime change”.' (Walter Brueggemann).

[Picture (c). Hans Holbein’s painting “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb”.]

1 comment:

Jane said...

Brilliant post Simon, thanks so much
I understand the fear before preaching of the empty tomb and it's great that you're trying to move the debate beyond the media obsession with "conjuring tricks with bones"