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Promises promises

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Easter

How do you make a promise?

A promise is a statement about the future and saying now what will happen. If you promise to make Mum breakfast in bed tomorrow, then you are saying that tomorrow morning Mum will be tucking into tea, toast and a full English. A promise is a way of giving someone certainty about the unknown future.

… and we know promises can be broken.


How do you break a promise?

Breaking a promise is easy. All it takes is for what you say will happen not to happen. All it takes is for the toaster, frying pan and teapot to remain unused tomorrow morning.

Or, you could break the promise by just bringing up a cup of tea and half a slice of toast and say, “here you are! Breakfast in bed!” Of course, it’s true that this is indeed breakfast in bed but clearly it isn’t what Mum was expecting.

It’s easy to break a promise and it’s hard to keep one.

What does God promise us?

We know he makes promises for Our Lady herself sings, “he remembering His mercy hath holpen His servant Israel as He promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed forever.” We can also see that God promises:

A long life in the land which He gives us.

His aid in battle.

Strength to the weary.

Protection from enemies.

Does God keep promises?


And perhaps, in viewing God’s promises of help we start asking “where was God when…?”

Where was God when the Jewish people were being persecuted by Hitler, by Western Governments and by not a small number of Christians? That doesn’t sound like God helping His servant Israel. That sounds like abandonment to the forces of darkness.

It’s true that the Bible paints a picture of the failures of the people of Israel to obey God and the Bible is full of descriptions of atrocities, and all of those atrocities occur because of human sin. If God makes us promises and then we go out of our way to make those promises invalid, then we can’t always blame God for what happens. If Mum gets up before us tomorrow morning, then we simply can’t make her breakfast in bed.

We human beings are very good about making statements about the future fall flat. We are very good at making promises null and void. What we also forget is that God is not exactly constrained to Time as we are. All of our promises are about the future but God is beyond past, present and future. He can even see things which could have been. When we look at God’s promises, we have to see in them His love for us throughout our whole lives. We have to recognise that we don’t know what might have been any more than knowing what will be. When God says that He will protect us, we have to read into that the ways He has already protected us from something worse.

A promise from God can’t be about the future because He has no future filled with uncertainty and doubt, nor has He a past filled with forgetting and misremembering but He has always a present filled with perfect knowledge of how things are and might be. A promise from God is a statement of what is beyond our understanding. It is because God’s promises go beyond our understanding that we are to learn to trust God in the dark times of our lives because we do not know what the alternatives really are.

What we do have is a clear demonstration of God’s power.


In Our Lord Jesus Christ, we apparently see someone forsaken by God on the Cross. We see in Christ, someone for whom God seems to break His promise. We see in Christ God’s will apparently thwarted.

And then we see the Resurrection.

We see God’s promise come true in a way that we can’t possibly have expected. We see God’s faithfulness go beyond our pitiful understandings of Time and Space in the wounds on the hands of Our Risen Lord and it puts us to silence. Time and Space, Life and Death are all putty in God’s hands.

In times of persecution and pain, horror and Holocaust, we simply cannot see what is going on. At our lowest ebb, God is there regardless whether our faith in Him fails us or not. Even when His promises appear to fail will they prove to have succeeded in a greater way than we had thought possible.

Let us pray for our labours for God to be fruitful, and God will promise that they will be, and in ways beyond our thinking.

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