Sermon for Sunday next before Lent – High Mass with Holy Baptism Sunday 10 February 2013
In the name of the father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
About twelve months ago, I was walking with a dear friend to the Southbank, to the theatre. On the journey there, a young woman stopped us and asked for some money. As Fr. Alan will testify, there is no shortage of men and women on the streets of this city begging for money or food.
My usual response is, I won’t give you money, but I will buy you food. However, my friend that day, a good Christian developed my type of generosity in a way that I have never done before. He said to the woman, “why don’t you join us for lunch”…
If you are surprised, I promise you… I was surprised. She said “yes” and we went into “Eat” on the Southbank and had a hot pie, mashed potato, gravy and a bottle of water each.
We talked about her story, then after a while, she asked us what we did. So in a wider way we shared our stories. Flesh was added to the bones of a kind gesture. One woman’s desire for money allowed all of us an encounter with something out of the ordinary and memorable. Within 30mins, we had all eaten our lunch, this young woman went on her way and we got ready to leave.
There is another lady in this story. She was sitting next to us by herself reading her kindle. As we were about to leave she turned to the two of us, and said, “I’ve just seen what you have done, and it was marvellous”.
I looked her in the eyes, and said, “Go and do likewise!” “Pardon”, she said. I repeated “go and do likewise!” and she said, “I can’t”.
Now I know some of you think that the Sun shines out of my cassock. I promise you, it really doesn’t. There is often an eclipse.
But that day, I was proud of two things. First, the exemplary Christian nature of a friend; second, that the words of our Lord were on my lips to command another to do what, after all, our Lord did in doing more for people than perhaps they ever asked.
There are commands in scripture which are placed on our Lord’s lips which we need to take seriously. Which need to lead us to do the unexpected thing. For us to rebel against maintaining the status quo, and to surprise one another, and strangers by not conforming to the anxiety we have with one another that this world perpetuates.
As followers of Christ, our familiarity with scripture should lead us into every situation, and our receiving of the sacrament should give us the courage and the conviction of our Lord. The Christian life is not about playing by a safe set of rules. It is about our being glorious and finding that the glory we reveal in the world, doesn’t come from our own endeavour, mind, or will, but from our being able to recall at any given moment the will of God, through the life and passion of Our Lord. And through his resurrection, to continually find purpose in his life which has been and is and is to come.
We cannot compete with our Lord, we are servants to his righteousness and glory. The Sun has only ever shone out of my cassock, I have only ever tried to be kind and honest, because his transfiguration, the revelation of him as “the Son, as the chosen” matters to me; because I love Christ, not only because he loved me first, but he fascinates me, he makes me think, and makes me want to “be” different and that is the relationship that we should seek to share in him.
I have said before, we are not gods, but we are created to hint at his perfection. (on a good day).
This is what is set before you Anna, you are to hint at the perfection of God to those around you. And the more you do that, the more those who are set against the truth of Christ, will start to look lifeless.
Those of you who know me; I hope I have over these past months tried to know you. We cannot just be generous as a community of faith by throwing money at things and at each other… avoiding keeping company with one another. (Though I still have two hampers from Selfridges to shift for the Restoration fund £75 each, reduced from £175).
But we need to sit and eat together at this altar and at each other’s tables, and encourage one another to be more like Christ. We must recall the stories of him feeding the hungry, keeping company with the outcast and healing people of their scared lives. To this altar and to all of our tables, Sergio, Emma and now their beloved daughter are welcome. For she is one in Christ as that woman on the Southbank is one with us in Christ. Whatever Christ does, go and do likewise. We shall not be transfigured now as he is transfigured, but we will be changed from glory into glory. Amen
Sermon preached by Fr John Pritchard