Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Don’t Look Up

Sunday 3 April 2022

Sung Eucharist
Revd Nicholas Mercer

It was a great pleasure last Christmas to have all the family back together under one roof – for a few days at least

We had some lovely family time together which often included watching a film together in the evening

To overcome the problem of whose choice of film should prevail, we decided to let everyone choose a film on different nights

And the spread of different films gave us a wonderful cross section of our differing tastes and interests

All the films were powerful in their own different ways

But one film in particular called “Don’t Look up” made a lasting impression

I expect that many of you may have seen the film already but, if you have not, I could not recommend it more highly

It is a 2021 American Science fiction movie written and produced by Adam McKay with a wonderful cast of glittering stars

Without wanting to give too much away, the film tells the story of two astronomers who try and warn humanity about an approaching comet

A comet so large that it will destroy human civilisation

But although the film may be an allegory for climate change it could be an allegory for any situation where truth is being proclaimed

For despite the incontrovertible fact that the world is going to end, people just don’t want to hear the message

Even when the scientists spell out the truth on live TV, people do anything to avoid listening

The film very cleverly displays ways in which we deflect attention

From political obfuscation, commercialisation trivia and, above all, attacking the messenger

Hence the title “Don’t look up”

Today marks the beginning of Passiontide

It is a two week period which marks the final journey of our Lord to his death on Good Friday

The term, perhaps, is confusing as we normally associate Palm Sunday with the start of Passiontide

But that is wrong

The liturgical colours also give mixed messages.

Today, the Church is in purple for the fifth Sunday of Lent but Purple gives way to Red

Red is also the colour of blood –

The colour being a stark reminder of the story at the heart of this season

/and the fate which befalls our Lord in a fortnight’s time

Passiontide also stands out for me because in this first week we remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer –

Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran Pastor who found himself in confrontation with the political authorities in Nazi Germany

In 1939 he was invited to flee to the United States to avoid an almost inevitable confrontation

He duly did so but realised that he had made a mistake

He said:

Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilisation may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization”

He could see the impending disaster staring him the face and could have chosen to divert his gaze

However, he chose to face up to the reality – he chose to “look up”

On his return, he confronted the Nazi regime and was inevitably arrested

He then suffered a form of execution every bit as brutal and bitter as that of our Lord

He was stripped naked and strangled by hanging on the 9th April 1945.
However, Bonhoeffer was just one, among many others

This year I have been watching the rise of the Nazi’s on BBC2 and the terrifying way that the Nazi’s both rose to power and consolidated it

And whilst watching the series, I was taken by another very moving story of a student called Sophie Scholl

She was a German student who was active within a non-violent resistance movement called the White Rose

She soon saw through the lies of the Nazi regime and began distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich

She was caught and executed in 1943 – like Bonhoeffer, executed for daring to “look up”

Her final words were “God, my refuge into eternity.”

That was the truth above all else

Today at the beginning of Passiontide, we glimpse something of the film at the time of the Lord

Jesus, if you like, faces the camera and says to us all “If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me?”

When Jesus sets out that truth to us all but the public don’t want to hear the truth

And menacingly we hear at the end of the reading that “they picked up stones to throw at him”

They wanted to stone him to death

This is by no means a new phenomenon – Jesus spends almost his entire ministry seeking to avoid being trapped by his political and religious opponents

And escapes death more than once

But the fact that we don’t want to face the truth/then and now/ says something about the human condition

And our lack of courage and our lack of faith

Before his death, Bonhoeffer wrote a book called “The cost of Christian discipleship” where he stated

“the ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from [his difficulties], but how the coming generation shall continue to live.”

This fortnight now in front of us reminds us not only of Christ’s witness but our duty to confront injustices in the world and the possible price that may bring to us

Christian discipleship is more than just about going to Church- it is more than generous giving – it is about confronting injustice at the same time

And confronting injustice often comes at a price

What is that price?

The clue is in the colour – the cost is potentially our own blood

In the name etc