Seven Churches in South Oxfordshire

Sermon – Advent Sunday 29th Dec 2015

Sermon for Advent Sunday

29th December 2015

It is Advent, so this means time is very short now. We need to be ready, and we are not.
Christmas is coming, and at the same time, we are told, I.S. is coming.
Violent Islam is challenging Europe both physically, intellectually, and also spiritually. There is a
war on, and, like our military in 1939, we are not ready, and we do not have the gear. Sure we can
recruit a couple of thousand more agents for the security services, but this battle is going to be won
or lost in the intellectual and spiritual realms. It is primarily a war of ideas, a battle of theological
understandings, about the nature of God, the means of salvation, and what it means to be a human
being.
It is a war in the spiritual world, where forces of rampant evil are given air time, and web space,
under the cloak of paternalistic multi-culturalism. “My,Grandma, what big teeth you’ve got!”
I want to speak briefly this morning about these two areas: the intellectual and the spiritual, where
the fight must be taken to IS, and to the Islamic mainstream, which sadly seems unable to put its
own house in order.
What kind of Theology is going to defeat the Islamic State ?
1) Firstly the place of violence in any scheme of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not brought about by violent means. Redemptive Violence is a myth. God saves the world through Redemptive Suffering.
Christ died for us on the cross, showing us that God identifies with the suffering and oppressed. He
is not to be found among the oppressors.
(This does not mean that Christians should not fight under any circumstances, although some have
interpreted it this way. I believe we are entitled to defend ourselves, and our country. But I don’t
think we are entitled to seek to conquer others by force, in order to bring them the good news of the
love of God…)
2) Secondly the use and abuse of power in the name of God.
The death of Christ on the cross is not weakness, but strength of the most astonishing kind. God vindicated Christ by raising him from the dead, showing that death itself is not beyond the reach of God’s love or power. The power of God is revealed most fully in Jesus on Easter Day, when the violence of the world was totally defeated by
the love of God in a perfect man. He rose, and therein lies our hope.
3) Thirdly being human means that all people are made in the image of God. Men, women, people
of faith, people of doubt, people of unbelief. There is not a pecking order of those whom God prefers. This gives everyone an equal, and infinite value,in the sight of God. No one is worthless.  Human life is sacrosanct. “Thou shalt not kill” was a commandment over a thousand years before Mohammed was born. It has never been abrogated, or set aside, by any later revelation.
4) Fourthly the true jihad is in the heart, and only in the heart. “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
It is possible for everyone to change the world, by attending to their own spiritual walk with God.
Your neighbour’s walk with God is between her, and her Lord. It is not for you to hit her over the
head until she says the words that you want to hear.  God does not glory in war, neither does he command us to make war in His Name. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
5) Fifthly it is not necessarily true that all religions lead to God. Neither is it necessarily true that the
later the belief the truer it is. Sometimes things get twisted, lost, or forgotten. Some things are human lies or demonic deceptions. Each claim has to be assessed individually. Authority is not just from a priestly caste, whether male or female, neither is it just from Scripture, but it is also mediated by the community of faith, the experience of his tory and the revelation of the Spirit of God to each and every one. Neither, we must add, is authority just from the media, or the web or the cultural spirit of the age. God requires us to think, to pray,to listen, and to think again before we give stuff the “Jesus loves what I am doing” seal of inner approval.
What about the spiritual challenge presented by Islamic State?
There is the glorification of death as a means to a reward in the afterlife. Martyrdom is held in high
regard and actively encouraged. No wonder our PM calls it a”death cult.”
How does one challenge this madness? Perhaps in this way:
In the Christian tradition, the sacrifice of one’s life is only justified, is only applauded, in those
circumstances when other’s lives are actively saved through the sacrifice. The man handing his life
vest to a child on board a sinking ship, the soldier throwing himself on top of the hand grenade to
save his fellows. This action in our culture stems from the “imitation” of Christ on the cross, who
gave his own live that we might be saved from our sins and who is offered to us by God as a model
for our own lives, and deaths.
At other times we say, because of the primacy of God’s gift of life, that it is for God alone to
determine the end of a life. If God is God, He is the Lord of my life, and not I. Suicide as a
mechanism of procuring personal salvation is a perversion of the human spirit.
What about the forced conversions? “Leave, convert or be killed” is the grim choice sometimes
given to those falling under IS control. Thus is our day we are seeing the extinction of the ancient
Christian Churches of the near East in a wave of ethnic cleansing. Those small communities where
Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken, are tetering on the verge of annihilation. The
spiritual issue is one of freedom; to confess, or not, to believe, or not. Western Society’s much
vaunted tolerance has at its root the Christian idea that God does not compel faith in Him, but that
he reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ, and invites (rather than commands) our allegiance.
It is Advent. Time is short now. Don’t waste a minute.
Get Ready. Sharpen your mind. Pray at all times that you will not be found wanting, but ready, alert,
and watchful in Christ’s service.
Kevin Davies 21st November 2015

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