Brother Nicolas preaching at Evensong at St Mary’s Priory Church on Remembrance Sunday asks “Where is God in these atrocities?”.
His sermon based on 1 Kings 3:1-15 & Romans 8:31-39 can be read in full below:
About a century ago started the most terrific war of the whole human history. Countries fighting against one another, people against people, soldiers against soldiers.
For many, it wasn’t a wish, a desire to go to fight. Merely an order they needed to follow, so that freedom and honour may be preserved.
Ego, selfishness, misuse of power were the cornerstone of the beginning of war, a misunderstanding of who our neighbour is and how to solve our problems.
Well, we all know what happened, the number of dead people, the families destroyed, the nations ravaged, the societies emptied of any resources, and the collapse of peace afterward.
From fighting and hatred, violence and bigotry, destruction and ignorance cannot rise peace.
This is the main history of the people of Israel. As soon as they started to move astray from God, when they put instead of mercy and faithfulness greed and ambition, then the society collapsed into war, no one was left secure. Then exile happened, mourn, grief and despair.
Where was God in this?
The omnipotence of God has nothing to do with the idea of power he have as humans. We think power as something someone possesses, that we can exercise over someone else, even to force our own power in order to get what we want. In that way, power is synonym of tyranny, where our pride is the motor of our actions.
God’s power is the Cross of Jesus. As we heard tonight in the words of St Paul, the love of God showed in Christ Jesus our Lord is everlasting and cannot be stopped or be broken by anything on earth, even our sins.
It’s that power, the power of ultimate sacrificial love that can save the world from corruption of heart, violence and ignorance.
Let’s not be naïve. During any armed conflict involving Christians, many came to fight bearing in their hearts the true redeeming love of Jesus. They had no desire to injure others. On the contrary, many were a source of healing and compassion on the battle field.
Let’s call to mind the incredible example of this American soldier, Desmond Doss, who during the WWII saved the lives of 75 soldiers, both Japanese and American. His faith was rooted in the strong reality of the Cross, a sacrificial love offered to us all in the person of Jesus. A power of love reaching the depths of human heart, even the darkest places of our humanity.
Hatred, violence, bigotry, ignorance, all these sins have been destroyed and vanquished by God through the cross of Jesus. A restored humanity is to be found in his love, where compassion triumphs over nationalism and ego. There’s power in love, in the true redeeming, sacrificial love of Jesus.
King Solomon tells us again this night of the love of God. As he started to rule over Israel, he kept into mind the author of all benefits and graces of this world. He remained faithful and obedient in love to God, listening and caring for the needs of his people he has been entrusted. A mark of true discipleship is to listen to what God says to us each day, for the welfare of all people around us.
God is faithful. His love is everlasting. Nothing can separate us from the Cross of Jesus, not even war and violence.
However, the Gospel of the Cross, the redeeming and sacrificial love of the Prince of Peace must be seen by our daily lives. We aren’t only reminded to keep God’s commandments, by also to live by them. There is to be found our true freedom, a freedom and a peace which surpass all understanding.
War is still accurate today. People fighting for resources, money, territories and ethnical protestations. We now do human traffic, we brutalise refugees and we steal the lands of indigenous people for we know they won’t be able to reply.
In ALL these atrocities, where is GOD?
God is at the same place from the beginning, IN THE MIDST OF US. He walks with us day by day, knocking at the door of our hearts.
“If anyone listens to me and let me go in, I’ll dwell with him and her forever”, says our Lord Jesus.
God isn’t a white beard man watching us making war and eating popcorn like in theatre.
The Cross of Jesus teaches us that God suffers with us in our daily life. The Cross of Jesus teaches us that God is incarnate, he is with those persecuted and broken-hearted. He is close to those who are in despair.
“He lifts up the lowly and sends the rich empty away”, says the Virgin Mary.
Like any process of peace and remembrance, we need first to ask God his forgiveness, to turn our hearts back to him, for without his mercy we can’t do anything in our own.
However, look across history and see that all good deeds have been motivated by love and love alone.
Humanitarian aid, hospital, evangelism, fight against colonialism and slavery, all these actions have been motivated by love.
So we need to look at the Cross of Jesus, again and again, in order to be healed from our sins, our diseases, and those darkness which paralyse our hearts from any good towards our neighbour.
War can stop, if we keep praying. If we live out our faith as Jesus taught us, witnessing of this mighty Creator who, one day, became one of us.
War can stop, if the hearts of those who desire fear, pain and suffering of others are healed and opened to God.
We are not alone to do so, my brothers and sisters, our Holy Mother Church prays and acts on those regions day after day, taking care of the poor, the widow and the orphan.
We are not alone, for the whole Communion of Saints, the prophets, the evangelists, the virgins, the apostles, the martyrs, the doctors pray with us.
It is our duty to remember those who have died for our freedom. It is our duty to give thanks to God for the gift of courage and life-giving.
It is our responsibility to enable people to open their hearts to the living God.
The Cross, my brothers and sisters, has reached heaven and earth. Nothing that we do will never separate us from the unconditional, sacrificial, unselfish, redeeming of God in Christ.
Let’s live by it, let’s make this divine love ours. Let’s live out this divine fire coming down from the depths of God’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.
War, hatred, violence, bigotry, will cease when all humankind will be reconciled to this great gift of love manifested at the Cross of Jesus.
Then, war will become history.
There is power in love.
As we came to worship the living God and remember those who have died of freedom, let’s pray with the words of St.Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
We will remember them