[Rector]

Corruption

 

Some years ago the BBC produced an excellent series called the Big Battalions. It was a story about a group of people from different faiths whose lives inevitably become entangled. As a piece of drama, it was worth watching. Yet it is not so much the drama itself, but the setting which was really quite incisive. The story focused on an Anglican clergyman. He is a powerful Evangelical, and you get the feeling that the author knows us very well. Of course, he is corrupt, but then the religion of all the players is corrupt. It is at this level we can get a little glimpse of ourselves, of our feet of clay.

First there is the corruption of fear. The High Church bishop in the story makes the observation that "revivalist" worship, the hand-waving, the repetitive driving choruses, has no other purpose than to drive away fear - the fear that maybe we are alone, that there is no God. The more noise the less fear. Mind you, it's also true to say, the more ritual the less fear. Yes indeed, church can be a magnet to the fearful, the fear of death, loneliness and isolation. Youth church in particular can be made up of those who fear being left on the shelf. So yes, what is the substance of my faith? Do I cling to the cross of Jesus out of fear, or do I cling apart from fear for I want to know Him for eternity. Only reflective quietness provides the space to search out our true motivations.

Second there is the corruption of power. In the story, the Evangelical and the High Churchman both covet the position of Bishop, but both deny their covetousness, even to themselves. Then, when the High Churchman gets the position of Bishop, he plays power games with the Evangelical, while the Evangelical sets about to undermine him. And yes, they cannot see what they were doing. Sadly, religious people very rarely see why they are doing what they are doing. Our motivations are usually hidden behind the impregnable wall of our self-righteousness. These games are even played at the parish-pump level where people, powerless at home or in the workplace, get to play the game at church. The game gets played right to the top.

So yes, corrupt we are. How shall we stand before the righteous judge? We can stand only when we see what we are, and then turn to Jesus and place our corrupt life under his cross. Only in his righteousness shall we stand.