St Bride's: Sermons

Thoughts for Holy Week

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Bertrand Russell
1872 - 1970

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Bertrand Russell, a great atheistic philosopher, was once asked what he would say if, upon his death, he was ushered into the presence of his maker. Russell's answer was that he would say, 'Lord, you didn't give us enough evidence!'

What would count as evidence for God? Some people have always looked for signs and wonders, the amazing and inexplicable, and wherever these phenomena have occurred there they have seen evidence for God. Yet Jesus himself warned against this seeking for signs. Where that went on you had an unbelieving generation, people looking for proof rather than walking the harder path of faith.

Others have looked for God in great intellectual systems, finding our God by the power of human thought and knowledge. Some have even claimed to have 'proved' God while others, unable to make any sense of the idea of God at all, have said that such talk is without foundation, illogical and so much nonsense.

So some have looked for signs, some have looked for human wisdom, but Christians go on telling a story of a man resolutely going to Jerusalem, laying before the city and the world a challenge in the name of God. This same man was eventually despised, rejected, forsaken, taken out to the rubbish tip and executed between two criminals. We preach, said St Paul, Christ crucified, Christ the power and the wisdom of God.

The reason, as Christians, that we go on telling this story is that we believe that the love of God finds a unique focus in the life, ministry death and resurrection of Jesus. And that still strikes many people as a very strange claim. You wouldn't automatically begin your search for God, or evidence of God, at a place of execution.

The Christian story begins at the beginning of time when God out of his overflowing love created a world and the possibility of life. God gave us a world in which to live and made us co-stewards of the world. But more than that, He has longed from the beginning for people to know him and respond to him as their loving heavenly Father. The Old Testament is the story of how the Hebrew people consistently failed to understand this: indeed they constantly turned away from God and didn't know how to speak to Him. They were even forbidden to use the name of God at all, in case of irreverence. A great gap between God and man had opened up.

So God took a risk, out of love, and came into his world himself. In the person of Jesus God showed us his human face and became man. But even then people didn't recognise, or didn't want to recognise who Jesus was, Love incarnate became love rejected and love crucified: and it was only after his death with the experience of his resurrection that his followers realised that something terrible had been done, out of which something truly wonderful had happened.

By allowing himself to be humiliated, tortured, mocked and killed Jesus bridged the gap that sin and alienation had created and brought us back into union with God.

However unbelievable it seems, however hard we find it to accept, God entered into the world through Jesus and endured the most appalling suffering for one reason only - God considers that you and I are worth it. And He invites us to respond to that love, the offering made on our behalf - Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

And so to each generation Christians point - not to signs and wonders, not to a philosophical system of thought, but to this story, the story of what divine love looks like when you live it out from birth to death.

Some look for signs, some seek wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God.

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