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Consequences for Marcion

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sermon for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

It’s very tempting to think that Marcion was right.

Who’s Marcion?

Marcion says that he is a Christian who does not believe that the God he reads about in the Old Testament is the same God that he reads about in the New Testament. Marcion thinks that it would be a good idea to cut out the Old Testament altogether as well as those bits of the New Testament which are sympathetic to the Old Testament?

But why?

Marcion hears the prophet Zephaniah declare that God says, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked: and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the Lord.” Marcion remembers how similar this sounds to God’s fury at the people in Noah’s time just before He wipes them off the face of the Earth with a flood.

And then Marcion hears Our Lord say, “Thy sins are forgiven. Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

You can see the thoughts go around Marcion’s head. If Jesus is God, then he’s not the same God as the one that drowned the Earth in a flood. They have completely different characters. Hasn’t Marcion got a point?

[PAUSE]

The main trouble with Marcion’s argument is that Our Lord Jesus Christ was born a Jew and for the purpose of saving the people of God. Jesus Himself reminds us that He was sent first to save the people of Israel and then the Gentile. All Jesus’ acts of worship conform to the Jewish standards of worship. The Blessed Virgin teaches her little boy the Jewish faith that she has received from old time, and her little boy grows up in that faith as the Messiah – the one who fulfils that faith. His ministry is steeped in the words of the Law and the Prophets, only He reveals their true nature as laws for the heart, not for blind observance. Jesus is the Son of the God worshipped by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and there is no getting around this. The Father of Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, and therefore the God of the New. And Jesus and the Father are One.

So why is God so different between the two testaments?

[PAUSE]

It seems difficult to say that God is the same in both Testaments, but it is true. Our difficulty is that we tend to see God as we see ourselves. We hear phrases like “the wrath of God” and we see a furious bearded old man on a throne hurling thunderbolts. That image we have, though, is an old image of the Greek god Zeus and is therefore a distortion. God does not experience wrath in the same way we do – how can an Eternal Being be angry at things in Time? What we see in the “wrath of God” are the consequences of our sins.

[PAUSE]

Take a china plate and hold it at arm’s length above a stone floor. Now let go.

Take a glass tumbler and hold it at arm’s length above a stone floor. Now let go.

Take a plastic beaker and hold it at arm’s length above a stone floor. Now let go.

In each case, the object falls. The tumbler and the plate break, but they all fall down. That’s the way that God arranges the Universe. That is the law of Gravity. We can’t change that, and if God were to change the law of gravity then the whole Universe would be changed too.

The same is true. If we sin and keep on sinning then this will have effects on the world around us. Every little sin we commit goes out into the world like the butterfly flapping its wings. And, as the Butterfly Effect takes hold, this can whip up a storm that can destroy us. This storm is the wrath of God because it is the consequence of our sins according to the rules and laws with which God has created the Universe.

We look at the world that God destroys yet saving Noah. We see Israel taken into captivity in Babylon. We see the temple of Jerusalem destroyed. And we say that it’s the wrath of God. Indeed it is. These are the logical consequences of our sins and we have to accept those consequences. It doesn’t matter if we destroy the environment around us knowingly or unknowingly, the result is the same and we are punished by those consequences. We can’t blame God because He created the world and us and told us how to live in order to enjoy it – and we did not listen to Him.

[PAUSE]

Hold a plate at arm’s length over a stone floor. Now let go. Does the plate smash?

Not if someone catches it.

Not if we allow someone to catch it.

Not if we call out for help for someone to catch it.

Not if we, knowing how foolish we are to have let go of the the plate repent, call out for help.

[PAUSE]

We humans are a foolish race. We expect God to save us from the consequences of our sin by changing the Universe just to help us out. And we forget that God has the power over life and death itself. Even if we are broken by the consequences of our sins, we can be mended, transformed and recreated. Even death is not something to fear when God is with us.

And this is the God that Marcion rejects in favour of a god of his own making, torn away from Eternity and flattened into Time and Space.

[PAUSE]

This world is buzzing with the consequences of sin, but it also buzzes with the consequences of love. We must accept the consequences of both in order to respect the Universe and the One God Who created it, but work to send out into the Universe the love of the same One God Who will save it.

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