“Rebecca Sermon by: The Rev. Rebecca Tankersley
Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration | Dallas, Texas
March 24, 2019
Third Sunday in Lent



Unless You Repent

“Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


From last September through last month, a group of 40 people met in the Youth Center every Tuesday evening for a journey we call “The Way.” Of these, 6 are now enrolled as catechumens to be baptized this Easter (and we are holding them in prayer this Lent as they complete their preparation). Others will be confirmed or will renew their confirmation vows on Pentecost. Still others have served as Companions – sharing, supporting, and reflecting theologically with our Wayfarers.

This has been my first experience with the Way, so I can’t say how it’s gone in the past. I can say this group kept me on my toes, eagerly raising questions which cut to the roots of our faith, week after week. One question, in particular, challenged us repeatedly: the question of theodicy. Why do bad things happen to seemingly innocent, good people?

We are not the only ones who struggle with this question. In our gospel passage today, a group comes to Jesus with news that Pilate has mingled the blood of Galileans with the blood of their in the Temple. We don’t have an historical account of such an event, but the story is consistent with other accounts of Pilate’s incredible cruelty to Jews. This group informs Jesus of Pilate’s actions without explicitly raising the question of theodicy, but Jesus knows they come from a tradition in which pain, suffering, and premature death were understood to be signs of God’s “adverse judgment” against the sufferer. It’s an all-too-common theological move: refusing to acknowledge that bad things happen to good people, we presume that if bad things have happened, the people must’ve done bad things. The impetus behind, and one of the great dangers of, this thinking is simple: if there’s a hierarchy of sin and if punishment is dealt out accordingly, then we who are not suffering can believe ourselves safe and holier than those suffering around us. In the face of a terrible human tragedy and in response to such dangerous theology, Jesus speaks “directly, emphatically, and bluntly.”