Sermon preached by Rev. Jessica McCrae
When you hear the name C.S. Lewis you probably think of his
Narnia Chronicles – the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe probably
being the most well known. But he also wrote books for adults as
well, one of my favourite being “The Screwtape Letters”. In it, a
senior devil named Screwtape briefs his nephew Wormwood, in the
subtleties and techniques of tempting people on Earth. Throughout
the letter the devil says that the objective is not to make people
wicked, but to make them indifferent. Satan cautions Wormwood that
he must ensure the human is comfortable at all costs. For example, if
the human should start thinking about anything of importance, he
must encourage him to think about something trivial instead.
Screwtape tells his nephew, “Always remember, I, the devil, will
always see to it that there are bad people in the world. Your job, my
dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.”
Ultimately that is what our parable is about this morning, people
who respond, who care and people who do not. It is a stark reminder
that the meaning of our life and faith stems not only from the good we
do, but on the good we fail to do. It is a reminder that a life of faith is
not only about our inner spiritual relationship with Christ but also
about how we live out our faith in the world, how we let our faith
inform our actions in the world. It is a difficult, hard hitting parable
that reminds us that there is no middle ground.
We need to care for one another.
That is becoming abundantly clear in our world right now, isn’t
it? As we learn to live in the midst of a pandemic that is infecting
millions and killing and weakening millions, that is crippling our
economy and making us unsure about the future and generally
unsettled, now more than even it is clear to us that we have a
responsibility to care for one another. For the most vulnerable among
us, and our neighbours.
And this is more than just a civilized response, in order to make
it through the pandemic. As people of faith, it is a faith based
response too. If we view our scriptures through todays lens we are
clearly told that thinking only of ourselves in these days, doing
nothing to protect others, is to deny Christ. Because it is there,
among the naked, hungry, scared and imprisoned that Christ chooses
to be. It is there, among the health care workers, the long term care
homes, the ICU wards, the schools, among those with pre-existing
conditions, those imprisoned in their homes, that Christ chooses to
be. The closest thing to a physical encounter we are going to have
with Christ, with God, in this world, is through the people around us.
Therefore, to encounter Christ fully we must be present where God’s
children live. Where all God’s children live.
Do you remember hearing about a migrant worker named Luis
Gabriel Flores? Earlier in the year he was fired after speaking out to
the media about the conditions he said he and others were forced to
live and work in, on a farm in Norfolk County. He said that because
of overcrowding he and the others he worked and lived with were at
risk of contracting Covid, and he was right. At the height of an
outbreak on the farm 200 workers tested positive, including Flores
himself. His bunkmate, Juan Lopez Chaparro, died. Flores refused
to do nothing. Risking everything he told his story, trying to get help
not only for himself but for all of the other workers as well who were
experiencing unsafe working conditions … for all of the migrant
workers in Canada, who are experiencing unsafe working conditions.
And he paid a huge price for it, as many do who speak up. He was
returned to Mexico with the certain knowledge that he would never
work here again. But, someone took notice. Someone else refused
to do nothing and helped Flores negotiate our justice system,
translated the language for him and helped him defend his rights.
And last week justice was done. It was clear that the farm had
done nothing to improve living and working conditions during covid. It
was clear that Flores was within his rights to speak up. It was clear
that more must be done to support the migrant workers who come
here, more must be done to keep the vulnerable among us safe. The
farm was ordered to pay Flores $25,000 for lost wages and pain and
suffering. But perhaps most importantly, this is the first step toward
systemic change in which all workers, including migrant workers can
speak up about unsafe conditions and be assured of being heard.
It was there in that bunkhouse that Jesus chose to be.
It was there in that courtroom that Jesus chose to be.
The question we are asked today is, where will we choose to
This Sunday, Reign of Christ Sunday is the end of our church
year – it is a time to take stock of our faith activities, to remind
ourselves of what it is we are called to do and how we are to live in
our hungry hurting world, as we prepare ourselves to journey again
through Advent, as we prepare again for the birth of the Christ child,
the birth of new opportunities and new life at Christmas. This is a day
of taking stock of where we have travelled through the year that has
past, how we allowed ourselves to be touched by the stories we have
heard and stories we have told, stories of God’s faithfulness and love.
It is a time to reflect on how we have shared that love and hope that
we have known with others. How we have lived up to the promise we
made last Advent, to let the Christ child reside in our hearts and move
us and change us; how we lived the promise to let the stories of our
faith move us and change us.
As we prepare for a new church year with the start of Advent
next week, we will be asked to remind ourselves what it means to be
people of faith, people who dream of a world reconciled with God’s
love. We will be asked to reflect upon what it means for us, two
thousand years later, to walk with the Christ child from the manger in
Bethlehem to the cross in Jerusalem. And today is the first step in
this Advent journey – today we pack our bags so to speak. We look
back on all we have learned in the past year and we consider what
we still need for the journey ahead. Today we take stock and we
decide if lived into our call to discipleship as fully as we could have, if
we reached out to others as compassionately as we might have, if we
met Christ as fully as we could have. And we decide we are ready to
make the journey again. Are we ready to commit again to make this
story our own? Are we ready to respond, to act, when these stories
of our faith collide with the stories of our world?
Because they will.
We will hear stories of miracles, of new life, of healings, of
compassion – and we will see plenty of places where our world needs
lots of each. We will see these stories come to life here in 2020, in
2021, the same stories told 2000 years ago will play out again, the
only exception being that we have a role to play in the ones today.
Will we take our place in the story?
As one year ends and a new one in our church year begins,
remember that these stories of how God is active in our world and
how God works through God’s children, through people like you and
me, they have power, incredible power to change our lives and
change the world. Today we finish the church year. We close the
Bible having read, experienced and travelled through a set of Jesus’
teachings. We have been moved, we have been changed, we have
been challenged. And next week we say yes, to doing it all again.
Next week we say yes again to this beautiful, challenging, earth
shaking experience that is the birth, life, death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ, hope and love alive and with us. Next week, again, we
are invited to take our place as people who dream of a world
transformed, as people who realize the boundless love and power of
God to come into our hurting and precarious world and bring new life
and hope, and who are willing to enter the story and reflect this hope
and point to this new life in all we do.
As the story of the Screwtape Letters progresses it becomes
clear that the devil’s nephew, Wormwood is overcome with a power
stronger than apathy, hatred or fear. Entering into relationship with
others, learning stories of love and joy and hope he is swayed, even
in the midst of the fear and horror of war, to love. Seeing the
compassion of others, he sees hope.
He fights indifference.
These stories of ours have power. These stories of ours can
change the world.
Love is the strongest force in our universe, and while this years
story is drawing to a close, the story lives on – love, God incarnate,
with us. How has this story, this message of love impacted you this
Are you ready for another journey?
Are you ready to welcome something new?
Join us. The invitation never ends. Thanks be to God.