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Sermon following the terrorist attack in Westminster

Article posted on 27 March 2017 Leave a Comment

In our gospel, there is a moment in time. There was an event which happened. There was a man who was blind. But then a sudden change. No longer blind he is unable to explain what happened. There follows a tirade of urgent questions to get clarity and understanding in an attempt not to celebrate life but to limit it.

On Wednesday outside Westminster, there was a moment. There was an event which happened. There was a man driving a car. There were others going about their own business. But then a sudden change. Lives are lost or permanently scarred.

There follows a tirade of questions. What happened? What did he do? Where is he from? Why did he do it? How did he do it? What did others do?

The two events are vastly different in action and separated in time, but the search to explain what cannot be explained is a common link.

In our gospel, blindness is a state of being; a life lived in a totally different experience to everyone else. I remember some years ago at another church, our house group decided to have a weekend away in a rented house on Exmoor. One member of the group was a young girl called Karen. She had been blind from birth.

I remember driving through a wooded area on Exmoor with Karen in the car and thinking Karen cannot share the same experience. I began to describe what we were seeing and she thanked me. But even then, I thought to myself how on earth can she possibly fully understand what I am describing if she has never seen anything of which I spoke. How does one describe sunlight sparkling through the treetops to someone who has only ever known darkness?

To be blind in a world structured for sighted people meant she had to find ways not only to understand the world in her way, but also to cope with our ways of living in it. How she shaped and understood the world in her own mind may be very different to the reality we experienced. Perhaps our blindness was not asking her to invite us in to her experience so we could learn how to live alongside her. How could we possibly ever know what it is like to be born blind?

Our two worlds would always be a gulf apart.

This brings us back to Westminster on Wednesday. Here we learn what it is like to live among others whose experience of the world is so radically different. To fully understand the reasons and motivation behind the attacker we would have to place ourselves in a world so very alien to the reality we experience. I am sure every detail of what he did will be scrutinised in minute detail, but in the end, will we ever be sure we fully understand it?

We can only deal with that which is within the scope of our experience; the horror of the act; it’s devastating effects; the fear, anxiety, and loss left in its wake. Lives taken or damaged.

Andy Walton, writing in Christian today makes the point that while our heads seek knowledge and facts, our hearts need something more.

Quoting theologian Greg Boyd, he states, we are not to accept with pious resignation the evil aspects of our world but to counter it by proclaiming it no longer has a hold on us; that we are free to resist its demands and to proclaim this by demonstrating it.

As Christians, we believe humans are created for relationship with God and each other. By gathering in communities of diverse individuals we build community and thereby actively resist evil. During Communion, we will not only share in each other the presence of God, but we will share in God’s peace.

The evil which was visited on Westminster on Wednesday was not life enhancing but life limiting bringing violence and anxiety not peace. All it did was harm people, relationships and families.

Our response is what defines us.

Archbishop Justin Welby, speaking in the Lords on Friday spoke of the values which shape our world which he said,

‘ speaks of – at this time of year as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter – of a God who stands with the suffering, and brings justice, and whose resurrection has given to believer and unbeliever the sense that where we do what is right; where we behave properly; where that generosity and extraordinary sense of duty that leads people to treat a terrorist is shown; where that bravery of someone like PC Keith Palmer is demonstrated, that there is a victory for what is right and good; over what is evil, despairing and bad.’

May the peace which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Terry Winrow

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