‘And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again;
And for thy sake that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought.
Love is the lesson which the Lord has taught’.
And then this:
‘He wished devoutly that the Irish language should be eradicated, writing that if children learn Irish before English, “So that the speech being Irish, the heart must needs be Irish; for out of the abundance of the heart, the tongue speaks”. He pressed for a scorched earth policy in Ireland, noting that the destruction of crops and animals had been successful in crushing the Second Desmond Rebellion (1579–83)’.
And if I tell you that these two pieces are by the same person (Edmund Spencer), what will you think? You may say, ‘Hypocrite!’ The man writes beautiful poems about the love of God and then urges the destruction of the people’s livelihood and their cultural heritage.
Ah well! That was the sixteenth century. We have moved on. Have we? Even as we ask this question we know we haven’t. Hypocrisy is alive and well and dwelling among us. It is a huge pitfall for Christians – not so much because we promote ‘scorched earth policies’ or doubt we should love others – but because we neglect to do what is actually within our power to do for others. That is why religion has a bad name. It is full of beautiful words and sentiments but is often short of engagement with the poor. An American theologian, Fleming Rutledge, talks about ‘full parking lots outside our churches’. But no one in the church wants to hear the preacher talking about the cross.
Only this week in Zimbabwe, the stalls people built for informal trading have been destroyed. ‘They are a breeding ground for Covid 19’. That may well be so but what are we putting in their place? We are destroying their livelihood so that they do not kill us. Pope Francis recently referred to Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground, ‘where the employees of a prison hospital had become so inured they treated their poor prisoners like things. And seeing how they treated a man who had just died, the one in the next bed says to them: “Enough! He too had a mother!” We need to tell ourselves this often’, Francis tells us, ‘that poor person had a mother who raised him lovingly’.
The cross is where we ache to join our words and our actions. We see the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and say we would never be like them. But then we find there is quite a bit of the Pharisee in us. Covid 19 is telling us the health of each of us depends on the health of all of us. We cannot say this is someone else’s problem. It is everyone’s problem – and opportunity. ‘Hearing all this they were cut to the heart.’ When the young Church began its mission, Peter was powered up to touch the raw point in the people’s self-understanding. He had an instant effect. That is a hard point to reach but maybe Covid 19 is moving us there.
3 May 2020 Easter Sunday 4 A Acts 2:14,36-41 1 Pet 2:20-25 John 10:1-10Post published in: Featured