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How sermons change

March 6, 2011

After I had posted the sermon below a friend emailed me with the comment: “Re your latest sermon: not sure why you ended as you did. Seems an odd last paragraph.” Since my friend is someone whose judgements are usually worth listening to, I had another think about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had not really appreciated the text I was meant to be preaching. I had been too quick to answer the question ‘where is God in the earthquake’. Too quick to identify the presence of Christ with those who were acting heroically and self-sacrificially among the rubble. It wasn’t that this was wrong, that Christ was not present in them. It was just not the full story that needed to be told. So at the time of preaching I changed my ending. I told the story that I myself learnt of only on Thursday evening.

As it turned out, a friend of mine, whom I hadn’t seen in some time, happened to be visiting Christchurch on the day of the earthquake. He also happened to be visiting the Pine Gould Corporation Building at about 1pm. He was crushed by a massive pillar and was bleeding to death when a passing construction worker with a mobile phone found him and stayed with him, making him as comfortable as he could. The worker went out briefly to phone his wife and family and alert them of the situation. He called for medical  help and organised an IV line, but it was too late. My friend was very grateful for a passing stranger who stayed with him as the blood drained from his body, listening to his jokes, contacting his family and finally ringing them with the bad news. Yes the presence of God was the presence of Christ in this passing stranger, but there was more. Attending to the ‘beloved Son’ also meant recognising the presence of Christ in my dying and dead friend. Perhaps here, most of all is the ‘beloved Son’.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. ann permalink
    March 6, 2011 2:50 am

    Ok, I do like your updated ending. However I have a complaint about the long-standing mandate to see Christ in our fellow-man. As if he isn’t worth seeing in his own right? Why do we have to see Christ in him to make him worth our while. That seems exactly NOT what Christ would do. Exactly the opposite. God creates souls precious to him, and they are worthy of attention because they are worthy of attention because they are unique.

  2. March 6, 2011 5:46 am

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments Ann. I too have queries about this common practice based on the famous parable of judgement of Christ’s identification with the hungry, imprisoned etc. But I’m not sure I am able to articulate my concerns. It has more to do with the avoidance of Christ’s risen and present agency by substituting the empirical other. However, having said that, I don’t think we need to present that kind of either/or.
    In response to your concern though, I would say that I do not see Christ in him ‘in order to make him worth our while’. His worthwhileness is not in question. If anything is in question it is God, and God elects to be present among us in the suffering and dying Christ, which is why I discern him in my dying friend.

  3. ann permalink
    March 6, 2011 2:03 pm

    That makes better sense to me – to see Christ in the suffering and dying. But we need to be careful in how that is interpreted, right?

    It’s that we are not completely alone when suffering…that Christ is with us in our suffering – not that we are with Christ in his suffering and dying. Or, rather, what is the difference exactly between those two unions?

    There’s the suffering of the ‘common man’ – ordinary life (and still miserable) suffering, where I sense that there the message is that we are not alone in it (and yet feel alone).

    And then there’s the suffering that is somehow consciously accepted by a disciple( such as in Phil 3:10? or Colossians 1:24?). What is what? Maybe you have a sermon this (or will write one sometime).

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