St Francis, Terriers - Trinity 9 (24.07.2016)

Tony Dickinson

Earlier this month the General Synod spent two days in closed session as (I quote) “they reflected together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality”. That was the latest example of a curious habit of the Churches in the contemporary world. They have been very willing to spend time discussing and making pronouncements about same-sex attraction and reproductive rights and other matters about which Jesus said little or nothing, while at the same time they have largely ignored topics about which Jesus said a great deal – like loving one’s enemies, and renouncing violence, and (as we heard in this morning’s gospel) the dangers of wealth.

It’s not only the Church of England that has this problem. There are many Catholics, not least in the USA, who have become so used to it that when Pope Francis starts talking about the same things that Jesus talked about, and tells his fellow-bishops to stop banging on about sex and start talking about justice and mercy they are deeply shocked.

Jesus is stern about the dangers and distractions of wealth. He warns his hearers how risky it is for them to store up treasures for themselves and to be “not rich toward God”. Paul echoes this when he tells the Christians of Colossae that greed is a form of idolatry. That’s a message our society urgently needs to hear. A survey a couple of years ago revealed that FTSE 100 bosses are now paid around 130 times the wages of their average employee. That’s nearly three times as much as in 1998, when the average FTSE 100 CEO was paid 47 times their average employee, and a ten-fold increase over 1980.

Things have become seriously out of kilter. The size of the gap between rich and poor is bad for everyone, socially and morally and spiritually. The fact that is it still widening is deeply worrying and a danger to the social cohesion of our country. But still the Churches seem happy to go with the flow. They ought not to be – and today Jesus has told us why. To him, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit…