Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity | Choral Eucharist

  • Preacher

    The Revd Dr Thomas Sharp, Succentor

  • Readings

    Ezekiel 18.1-4, 25-end; Psalm 25.1-8; Philippians 2.1-13; Matthew 21.23-32

The Succentor's sermon preached at the Choral Eucharist on the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity.

Do you remember what they asked Jesus about the man born blind?

Who sinned, that this man should be born blind?
Him or his father?

Who is to blame? Someone must be to blame for his condition.

And do you remember Jesus' response?

Neither this man nor his parents sinned.
He was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.

Not only does Jesus reject the premise
that this man or his parents must be to blame for his blindness.
Neither this man nor his parents sinned.
But Jesus rejects the premise that his blindness
is, in any way, a curse.

This man was born blind for this very moment,
as a witness against you all, and as a witness to you all,
of God's wonderful works, of mercy and love, of creation and recreation
pouring out from God-with-us the messiah amongst us.

What a vocation. And what a sermon he goes on to preach
in the rest of John chapter 9.


The point is this.
When bad things happen, we want to find someone to blame.

Sometimes this is a good instinct,
that prevents disasters from happening again.
But sometimes we just want a scapegoat
to make ourselves feel better.

Or maybe we want to feel like someone's past
set the course for this present,
so, in the same way, just maybe, we could have
at least some control over our own future.

Either way, God who is Jesus,
and God speaking through the prophet Ezekiel,
is having none of it.

From the moment the word of God said to Ezekiel son of Buzi,
O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you,
the prophet Ezekiel proclaims God's goodness in terrible times,
times of uncertainty, of impending disaster,
of injustice, invasion and inhumanity.

Ezekiel proclaims the goodness and the glory of the Lord,
the fullness of the divine life and the brilliance of divine light
in a world whose strength is sapped
by encroaching darkness and gathering storms.

And in the midst of it all, the people cry out, Who caused this?
Who is at fault? Who can we blame?
If not our generation, then maybe our parents.
Someone, anyone, who can we blame? Tell us!


The word of the Lord came to me:
What do you mean by repeating this proverb:
The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children's teeth are set on edge.

I am the Lord, and you seek to blame another for your misfortunes.
You make your bed, you lie on it.
If you build a world of death around yourselves
do not be surprised when death rebounds on your own heads.
If you build a world of cruelty,
of use and abuse, of oppression and extraction,
do not be surprised on the day
when you wake up and discover yourself in chains.
I am the Lord.

Yet you say, The way of the Lord is unfair.
Hear now, house of Israel: Is my way unfair?
Is it not your ways that are unfair?

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God.
I wish I could say the same about you.
Turn, then, and live.


One of the members of the congregation at St Hugh's
had this to say, on the news of Bishop Karowei's death.

All we can do is praise God.
God makes it rain on the righteous and unrighteous.
All we can do is praise God for his goodness.

Bukky is a more sensible Christian than me.
She's right.

When terrible things happen, when hard times hit,
are we to lie down in the dust and weep
like the friends of poor Job wanted him to do?

When bad things come our way, do we follow the advice of Job's wife:
Curse God and die?


We praise God and live.

We praise God and live
because the praises of God are our life.

We praise God and live
because the praise of God's Spirit is our breath.

We praise God and live,
defiantly, determinedly,
we praise God and live
and spit in the face of evil and death as it comes upon us:
You shall not have the final word.

I may not have the measure of you now
but Jesus got the better of you in the end!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!


We weep,
we say our prayers of grief and consolation
and even through our tears, even at the graveside we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.


On Wednesday night, as Bishop Karowei
was being brought into the cathedral for the last time,
I was in Edinburgh, attending the ordination of an old friend,
a new priest in the service of God.

One ministry ends and another is beginning.

God is doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it?


Christian praise does not take away our pain and our grief,
when death, destruction, our finitude and failings get the better of us.
But it does change it.

We hurt, but we laugh as well at death and destruction,
for their end is sure,
and our end is but a new beginning.

Lord, you are good, all good, the only good, the Lord God living and true,
St Francis sang, as the leprosy consumed him.
You are good, all good, the only good, the Lord God living and true.
True in my victories and true in my defeats,
living in prosperity and living in my poverty,
moving in power when I achieve much
and moving in my powerless when I am beaten down,
rejoicing from the cross when I stride out in holiness
and hugging me in holiness when I come running back.

Aye, God is very good. And I will sing this song to the day that I die
and into eternity, by his grace.


Praise God, and live.
Do not try to pin the blame on yourself,
you're not that important.
Do not try to pin the blame on someone else:
they aren't either.
Praise God, and live.

In times of sorrow and times of joy,
most high all powerful, good Lord,
yours are the praises, the glory, the honour and all blessing.
Blessed be God, now and for ever.
Alleluia and Amen.