People in the local community in Caterham and across the United Kingdom will be aware of the tragic news of the murder of 14 year old Breck Bednar last Monday. It has been widely reported in the national press. Breck, together with his immediate family, was a member of our church community here at St John’s. Today we gathered at our customary time to celebrate holy communion together with his family and friends, to share their grief and give them our support and offer our prayers. Please pray for them and all who mourn in the difficult days ahead.
Mother Anne-Marie Garton, associate priest at St John’s, preached the sermon using the set gospel for the day as her text – Matthew 6.25-end. Here is what she said:
In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us about getting our lives into perspective, getting our priorities right. He was talking to his followers from the top of a mountain, and his words still echo out down the centuries to us today. He is giving advice, guidance, words of wisdom, about getting things in perspective and concentrating on what is really important in life.
Last Monday one of the young members of our church community, Breck Bednar, was brutally murdered. Someone tweeted on the tribute twitter feed for Breck “so close to home. Puts everything into perspective really.” Indeed it does. When I heard the news about Breck I was devastated – I couldn’t take it in. But for you his family the news is unimaginably awful – every parent’s worst nightmare. Our hearts cry out to you. We probably can’t find the words to say, but our hearts break for you. We try to pray for you. We try to let you know we love you but it cannot take away your unimaginable loss. When such tragedy strikes everything we might have been worrying about seems so trivial.
Whilst this last week our hearts have been going out to Breck’s family – to Lorin and Barry, to his sisters and brother, to his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and all his friends; I expect many of us have inevitably thought about our priorities. What is it that is really important? We may have held our children or grandchildren that bit closer, valued our friends more dearly, and possibly opened up the communication channel to God – that guy we often forget about. Jesus, having told us not to waste our time fretting and worrying about the everyday things, goes on to say “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Put the things of God first – the things that are of his Kingdom. And what are these things? They are the values God commends to us – these are the things of HIS kingdom – love, justice, peace. These are the things to strive for.
There are many things today, and always have been, that work against God’s righteousness. Things and people who actively promote values counter to those of God and his kingdom. We call this evil – things that are contrary to God’s love and purpose in this world. We shy away a bit these days from talking about evil – our ancestors were less reticent than us. But what happened to Breck is evil. His young life taken in this violent way is evil. Of course there are often reasons, some of them psychological, as to why people do evil acts. But we shouldn’t shy away from calling the act itself evil and know that it is totally counter to God’s will. There was no way God wanted this to happen to Breck. It is not God’s way. Evil acts come from people acting wrongly, not from God.
Our gospel today calls us all afresh to work for God’s righteousness, to not be afraid of striving for goodness and for God’s values of love and justice and peace. Most people know instinctively what is good and right, and what is bad and wrong. Each one of us can strive to make the world a better place by striving for the good, and speaking out against what is evil and wrong.
As a church community we gather together today, as we do every Sunday, to worship God and to pray to him, putting God first at the beginning of each week. As a church community today we offer to each other, as we do each Sunday, God’s peace and love. Today we offer this love, a love welling from deep within the compassion of God, to Breck’s family; and we pray that in time there will be justice for Breck and his family over this evil act; and also that, hard though it maybe, and long though it may take, they will begin in time to find again the peace that only God can bring them. Amen.