What was the worst sermon you ever heard?

In the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I was at a clergy conference some years ago down in England. At the end of the evening meal one evening, someone suddenly said, “what is the most stupid prayer you ever heard”.
And I have to say that there then followed a very funny half hour as the various clergy from all different kinds of churches put their bids in for the most stupid prayer that they had ever heard.
The winner was – “And Lord, we pray for Beirut… which is in the Lebanon”
And perhaps inevitably, and perhaps more uncomfortably for clergy, the evening went on to a further discussion when someone asked – what is the most stupid sermon you ever heard?
I wonder how you would answer.
I can think of a number of contenders. Very high on my list is a sermon that I heard whilst on holiday some years ago when the preacher began with the words, “In this sermon, I want to explore the question of whether there is resurrection on the moon”.
It didn’t get better than that. The preacher argued amongst himself about whether or not there was resurrection on the moon. And then ended with the words, “…there is of course so much to say that it is impossible to answer this in one sermon, so think of this as part 1. I’ll come back with a definitive answer next week. Amen”.
I never heard the second sermon.
I still don’t know the answer.
I still don’t know whether there will be resurrection on the moon.
And I never really knew what that question meant in the first place.
Which maybe brings us to the Sadducees and the story they brought to Jesus.
Now, one of the extraordinary things about Jesus is the stories that he told.
In just a few lines of text, he left behind him stories which still have resonance with the world today. Some stories which seem perplexing, many which are enlightening. The parables. The prodigal child. The good Samaritan.
They are phenomenal stories which still have the capacity to stop us in our tracks.
And a lot of the gospel readings that we get in church are Jesus telling a story and sometimes we get to hear of those around him talking about the story.
In this Sunday’s story, that dynamic is turned on its head.
Other people tell Jesus a story and ask him to interpret it.
The Sadducees spun him a yarn and asked him to interpret it as a bit of a test.
I’m not sure that we know that much about the Sadducees other than that they were a religious group that didn’t accept that resurrection happened. And in telling their story they are setting Jesus a test. Was he one of them or one of their enemies?
There was this woman who married her man and then he died before they’d had children.
So his brother married her. And he died.
And the next brother married her. And he died.
And his brother married her. And he died.
And the next brother married her. And he died.
And his brother married her. And he died.
And the last brother married her. And he died.
And then she died.
Presumably exhausted.
Whose wife will she be in the resurrection they say.
(They were being sarcastic remember – they didn’t believe in the resurrection anyway).
How would you answer them.
You might have something to say about this woman being treated as the property of a bunch of men.
Patriarchy is strong in this one!
I think if I’d been Jesus I’d have been tempted to roll my eyes and just say, “Well they are all deid anyway. What does it matter.”
And in a way, he does kind of say that. But he does affirm that he believes in a resurrection – but seems pretty clear that his view was that human ordinances are for our earthly existence. And that our being with God will so dominate our heavenly existence that such questions simply die away.
It is a bit like asking whether there is resurrection on the moon.
The idea of resurrection isn’t about sorting out who is whose husband. We have this life to do that – if that is what we are looking for. Some of us doing rather better at it than others.
It is the case that now as then, there are religious people who manage to worship together who have different views about what will happen when we die.
Right at the focal point of this building is a piece of art which clearly addresses what some people were feeling. The reredos behind the High Altar is our Second World War memorial. And the painting on it puts three women at the tomb looking for a body and an angel with rainbow wings is very clearly saying – he is not here he is risen.
It isn’t difficult to see why those who had experienced war at first hand and who were themselves mourning those who never came back wanted to place such an image centre stage in a church such as this one.
They had been to hell and back.
An experience that is not confined to war.
The reading from the second letter to the Thessalonians that we have this morning is the first of several that we get as we approach the end of the church year in a couple of weeks time.
The world for the author of 2 Thessalonians is falling apart. Lawlessness is rife and deception is all around. If feels as though the end times are just around the corner.
I’ve often thought that this world view felt far away. But not so much at the moment.
The author tells their audience to continue to give thanks, stand firm to the traditions they have learned and feel the real comfort of God’s love and grace.
That comfort is not described as being transitory, nor even long lasting. It is described as being eternal.
As all seems to be falling apart the author says, the God who loves us gives us grace and good hope.
Not a stupid sermon.
The only sermon worth hearing.
Grace. Love. Hope.
For ever.

Comments

  1. Meg Rosenfeld says

    i am strongly reminded of the routine from–I think–the Beyond the Fringe group, wherein the Anglican priest rambles hilariously on–and off–the topic of the deathless line “My brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man.”

    There’s got to be a song somewhere about resurrection on the moon.

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