We are one world - sermon for Christ the King 2016

Published by Giles Goddard on Tue, 22 Nov 2016 10:03

There is a Victorian hymn:

Conquering kings their titles take,
From the lands they captive make;
Jesus, Thine was given Thee
For a world Thou madest free.

We are in a world where conquering kings seem to be taking their titles from the the lands they’ve taken captive, or giving titles to the land they’ve captured - Trump’s America, Brexit Britain. Where the lands they’ve taken are defining themselves more and more by building walls, fences, policing their borders, firming up their boundaries. We’re in a world where national identity is more emphasised than at any time in recent history, where people are reasserting their sense of membership of a small group of People Like Them, where mistrust, resentment and fear are the order of the day.

I have just spent 24 hours on a residential consultation with Christian Aid. They were asking church leaders to help think about how they should frame their work and their message for the next three years. It was not a comfortable 24 hours; because, now, the narrative of the powerful is quite different to anything we’ve heard recently. It, too, is a narrative of mistrust, resentment and fear, here and, to an even greater extent, in the USA; the dominant narrative is one which is against aid, against welfare, against refugees, against the state, against outsiders. I’m reminded of that extraordinary headline in the Daily Mail recently after the High Court decision on referring Article 50 to Parliament: Enemies of the People. We the People have spoken. Those who do not agree with us are the Others.

It feels as though we are in a new world, and it is not a beautiful world.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Conquering kings their titles take,
From the lands they captive make;
Jesus, Thine was given Thee
For a world Thou madest free.

Today we are celebrating the feast of Christ the King.

Rowan Williams was speaking at the conference. He spoke, as ever, powerfully and well. The church, he said, has never been more counter-cultural than should be now. Even though, apparently, a majority of Christians voted for Brexit – no doubt for a variety of reasons - and even though the evangelical white right in America appears to have supported Trump by a margin of 4:1; yet, at its heart, the Gospel message we proclaim is a message that we are One World. That we are a common people, we share a common humanity, and Christ himself came for the whole of humanity, came to make us free.

It occurred to me, as I was engaging with others at the conference, that the strangest thing about this new political world we are in is this: that we can no longer assume that the proposition ‘You should love your neighbour as yourself,’ has general consent. People have been given permission not to love their neighbour, whoever their neighbour is; whether their neighbour is someone who lives next door, or someone far off, a Samaritan, a refugee, a Mexican – the underlying narrative, that we share a common humanity, is no longer a given.

But the church’s message remains, and will always remain, we are One World.

Christ came to set us free from petty boundaries and nasty nationalism.

Christ is, as Rowan said to us, both our resource and our responsibility.

Christ is the message at the heart of our freedom, and Christ is the responsibility that we have.

Christ resources us with his expression of the love of God for all the world; and Christ gives us the responsibility of telling others, so that they can tell others, so that they can tell others, so that, in the end, the whole world – one world – is transformed.

Conquering kings their titles take,
From the lands they captive make;
Jesus, Thine was given Thee
For a world Thou madest free.

So, my friends, we celebrate Rainbow Sunday; when we give thanks that we are One World and we live, together, alongside one another, in our beautiful God-given diversity, as Ugandans and Sierra Leonians, Nigerians and Germans, Danes, English and Malaysian and American and Swedish, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Jamaican, Polish, Czech, Chinese, Taiwanese – have I missed anyone? - as gay, straight, bisexual, trans; married, single, in relationship, people with children, people without, singers and musicians and care assistants and retired people and students and workers and unemployed, brown eyed and blue eyed, tall and short, smiling and frowny… all made free by the love of God.

Our responsibility, here and now, is to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

Our responsibility, here and now, is to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Our responsibility, here and now, is to love the Lord our God, with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds.

So let’s do it.

Let’s do it, after the service, by sharing a meal together.

Let’s do it, as part of the church, by joining one of the new work strands we have emerging- the church council has recently agreed to set up five subcommittees covering particular areas – Finance and Major Fundraising (Jane Stroud), Column Inches (Mark Ormerod), Events and Hospitality (Alice Mwanje), Environment and Social Justice (Nicola Smedley) and Worship and Ministry (Jeff Risbridger), and if you’d like to help with any of those, see the chair afterwards or contact me.

Let’s do it by welcoming Dom and Petra and Leon, who were confirmed in the cathedral yesterday evening, and the many people who have come to St John’s in the last year.

Let’s do it, as part of the church, by supporting it financially; now is the time of year for me to remind you of our stewardship responsibilities. We can do none of this work without financial support, and I am grateful to all who give regularly already, and encourage all who aren’t in the regular giving scheme to consider giving. There is further information here.

Let’s do it by supporting the Robes Project, and the Harvest for Hope refugee housing initative, and by buying many delicious things from the Zaytoun Palestinian stall which is here, today -
But let’s do it, too, by going beyond the church.

By asserting, loud and clear, wherever we find ourselves, at work or at home, online or face to face, to politicians, friends and colleagues that we are part of One World, and that we love our neighbours as ourselves, and that although of course we have to be careful, yet, far more importantly, we have to be open.

Open to those around us.

Open to those we love.

Open to our enemies.

Open to our friends.

And open to the love of God.

Open now, and open for the future;

Open, because Christ came that we may have life and have it in abundance;

Open, above all, because God is love, and those who live in love in God, and God lives in them.

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