Saturday, 12 June 2010


Today's Gospel is one of those uncompromising statements that Jesus makes, which leaves no room for self-delusion. It begins by talking about oaths and the futility of swearing by this or that and then goes on to say stick to Yes or No. This bit contains a real challenge akin to when Jesus asked whoever was sinless to cast the first stone. Because, the truth is we are all liars and pretty well experienced at it. When I read this, I suddenly realised what a liar I am and how I have heavily littered by path through life with lies great or small. Until reading it I would admit to the occasional porkie, but that would be just the tip of the iceberg. And there is something more worrying than the capacity for self deceit, when deceiving God or others. Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus refers to the Evil One ( mentioned also in this Gospel) as a liar and the father of lies. So, we can be assured that when we lie, we are doing the will not of our Father in heaven, but the father of lies. There are, therefore no little lies, no white lies. They are all wrong and sinful and an offence to God and a rejection of his grace and love. Sadly as Jesus points out, those who find more and more exaggerated oaths to support their honesty are more likely to be lying and doing the work of the wrong father.

So, let's take lying in all its forms much more seriously. If it is a sin, then I have a lot of unconfessed sins to account for. Maybe I should take up the challenge Jesus lays down in this Gospel.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

By their fruits......Cumbrian murders

Yesterday saw the progress of evil through small, peaceful, unsuspecting communities, ill prepared to deal with such savage and unprovoked violence. Indeed, what community could be prepared for such an event or even to anticipate that it may happen. We rightly conduct our lives looking for a more hopeful and pleasant reality. But, whether the level of death and suffering amount to yesterday's horrific level, or whether it is a single act of violence and destruction, we know only to well the presence of evil within our communities.

As Christians, we have an understanding of evil that locates its origin outside of humanity in the objective evil known by many names, the most common being Satan. When evil acts are committed, it is this force that gives them birth and delights in the misery that they bring into the lives of human beings. But the origin of the act does not absolve or excuse the individual from complete personal responsibility. Lest anyone be deluded enough to blame the Devil alone, we need to say that it is in the exercise of our free will that we enter into a diabolical partnership of wickedness and we, therefore, are utterly culpable for the acts - can we still call them sins? - that we carry out.

It is true that there are exceptions such as those who are disturbed by mental disorders of one kind or another whose judgements are so impaired as to make it impossible for them to know a right action from a wrong one. The evidence so far does not suggest that the perpetrator of these killings was mentally ill, certainly not to that degree. In fact, the evidence suggests that he was very much in control of what he was doing. In one particular instance, he beckoned a poor 66 year old lady to come across to him and when she did so, in all innocence, he shot her in the face. And so, a woman delivering catalogues for Betterware to earn a few pounds extra was brutally and deliberately murdered by someone who did not know her and had no reason at all to harm her. That sounds like evil to me.

Even in Christian circles these days we are reluctant to talk about evil and sin. We attribute wrongdoing and failure to psychological, environmental, cultural influences and so on and, of course, these are factors. But they are also the ways by which evil is mediated into the world.
Our humanity and our society are compromised by original sin and by the continuing malice of the evil one, so we fall short of the perfection in which God created our species and which is his desire for us to return to.

For whatever reason, Derek Bird made a pact with the devil. Not a conscious, melodramatic selling of his soul, but a surrender to that potential for and attraction to evil which is inherent in our fallen natures. He is responsible for the acts he committed and must now answer to God for his sin. His only hope is God's mercy.