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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

25 March 2020: Rev'd Alice Wood from St Matthew’s Church Blackmoor and Whitehill

Sin all dressed up as a virtue

Did anyone watch the recent BBC adaption of “Good Omens” based on the book by Terry Pratchett. If not I recommend you look it up on iplayer. This fantasy series focuses on a fussy Angel called Aziraphale and a loose living demon called “ Crowley”-which started off as “Crawley”, because this demon first came to earth, in the garden of Eden, as the snake! Aziraphale and Crowley team up and form an unlikely friendship. They both fall in love with life on Earth, one seeking to redeem fallen humanity and the other seeking to bring about its ruin. The demon is played by the actor David Tennant, who is hilarious and brilliant to watch. The plot brings these two diametrically opposed beings working together to stop the prophesized approaching Armageddon (end of the world). The angel and the demon do this with the help of an even more unlikely figure-the Antichrist- who has actually grown up to be a very pleasant 11 year old living in rural England with a cute, little terrier, who was meant to be The Hound of Hell and three savvy, intelligent young pals. I was particularly interested in watching this series as my son- in -law to be, is writing his Theology PHD based on Terry Pratchatt’s books. A lot of the plot verges on the heretical so maybe that’s what he is focusing on.

“Good Omens” actually starts with the well-known temptation story about Adam and Eve from the Old Testament Book of Genesis- which seeks to provide answers to some fundamental questions arising out of human experience.
Why is our knowledge so limited when we dominate the rest of creation? Why are we so constrained by death when the earth teems with life? The woman, Eve, is seduced initially by the fruit’s threefold appeal. What she sees will certainly nourish her body, feelings and desire for wisdom and power. The man overhears the whole conversation, and willingly receives the fruit his helpmate passes to him. She does nothing to persuade him to eat; the serpent is the tempter- and here my thoughts are dominated by the gorgeous David Tennant morphing from a serpent into a demon in human form. Adam and Eve’s undoing lies in their desire to be god-like and seeking to know the difference between good and evil.
The serpent’s temptation is subtle: he deals in distortion rather than direct contradiction. The sin is dressed up as a virtue. He is right to say that eating will not cause them to die, but the unfolding story reveals the consequences of stepping beyond God-given boundaries in other kinds of death, which rupture the all-embracing communion for which humans are made: with God, with each other, and with the earth and its creatures.

Satan has not changed his tactics. He is subtle often dressing a sin up as a virtue. Can I give an example here: over the Christmas season I heard a lot of folk say “Oh Christmas is all about family” or “ We had thirteen for Christmas dinner so I couldn’t possibly make it to church that morning”. Family is good, strong relationships within a family bring happiness, security and love. All things Jesus would endorse and which are emphasised in a Christian Marriage Service. So far so good. But what if family becomes all about me and mine? All time and resources go into this- so there is no time left for others on the fringe, a neighbour in need, no money left for charitable giving, no time left to deepen and develop in ones journey with God. What if family becomes so all consuming that one’s only conversation is about how talented and more capable ones children are compared with those down the road? Satan is subtle sin will be all dressed up as a virtue. Sin draws one further away from God and from others. Sin distorts the person God intended one to be.

The desire to be god-like appeals to every generation. Wisdom lies in being humble enough to acknowledge our true state. We are not God; we depend totally on God.

To see what action PACT churches are taking with regard to coronavirus see the PACT Easter services 2020 page of this web site

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