Sermon by Canon Adrian Ling CMP, Sunday 14th March 2021
Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10
Every day I phone my mother. And this week one topic of conversation has dominated our conversation: the interviewof Oprah Winfrey with Meghan and Harry. My mother is definitely not ‘Team Meghan’, especially now that her beloved Piers Morgan has left Good Morning Britain. Her cleaner had the temerity to defend Meghan saying that she felt sorry for her because she was clearly upset during the interview, and on the verge of tears. ‘She’s an actress!’ my mother declared without compunction.
It is said that you should not wash your dirty linen in public. Shaming your family publicly is not a good way to help repair a broken relationship. We might ask what were the motives behind the making of this programme? Was it done out of love? Or was it an act of revenge? It was billed as ‘Meghan telling her truth’, not ‘the truth’ but ‘her truth’. Is that the same as the ‘alternative facts’ that the Trump team used to refer to?
The hurt and damage caused by this interview will be difficult to overcome. One cannot help but be reminded of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and how the royal family, and especially the Queen Mother, were unable to contemplate the presence of the Duchess of Windsor at royal occasions, because of the hurt they had caused.
In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus talks about the motivation of God who gave his only son because he so loved the world, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. That is the foundation of the gospel, the supreme act of unconditional act of love of God the Father for the entire human race. Despite all the failed warnings of the prophets in guiding the people of Israel along God’s way, something more had to be done.
God could have sent his son in judgement, to condemn the failings of mankind. But he was not driven by a motivation to condemn the world, but to redeem it. Jesus said he had not come to condemn the world. He did condemn some, who should have known better, the hypocrites and blind guides among the religious leadership. And he did so knowing the consequences. ‘Judge and you will be judged,’ he had said, ‘condemn and you will be condemned.’ And he was: condemned to death on the cross.
Was the interview an act of condemnation, achieved by allusion, leading the interviewer and the viewers to the crushing conclusion that the royal family is racist? The Sussexes too have now exposed themselves to judgement; their actions will be praised by some but condemned by others.
The royal family has its problems and tensions like any family, and it is the cross they have to bear that the public considers it its business to know about them. But how do our family and personal relationships bear up by comparison? What are the motives behind our treatment of one another?
Our problems will not be broadcast on the news, however if we publicly criticise and condemn other people then we are putting them in the pillory, and we should be mindful of the damage and hurt we may be inflicting on them. There are some actions which can irreparably damage our relationships.
Love was the motivation for God to give Jesus Christ to the world. And we should repeatedly check our motives, and ask ourselves why we do what we are do to other people. We should ask ourselves whether our deeds are done out of love or for less wholesome reasons. Are we building up in love or tearing down in hate?
St Paul says that we ‘are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.’ This work of art is a product of the grace of God. It is the overflowing grace of God at work in us that makes us God’s work of art, that can help us to do beautiful things, in spite of ourselves and our base human emotions.
To let that grace work in us, we must be merciful as he is merciful, and not merciless. To be merciful is to be generous. Mercy is given not because the other deserves it, it is given even though they don’t because it is motivated by love, by the love that flows through the perfect grace of God.
On this Mothering Sunday let us pray for healing and reconciliation in the royal family and wherever there is discord, even in our own families and relationships
And in the light of that interview let us be mindful of the fine Norfolk saying: ‘if you’ve got nothing good to say about other people, say nothing.’