SERMON: Trinity 3 – Sunday 7th July 2019
Galatians 6: [1-6[7-16; Luke 10. 1-11; 16-20
‘Not circumcision, but a new creation’
May I speak, and may you hear God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN
On Monday, I spoke to the partner of a friend who has just been made deacon to find out how everything had gone. How was he, I asked and how did he feel now? No, not the friend made deacon, the partner of said friend.) Of course, my new revd friend looked radiant from the photos; but I was aware that this was the culmination of a journey that has been the life of the pair of them for at least ten years. And his partner said, ‘I don’t quite know what to do next; I’ve spent a decade of my life getting him to this point; now it’s happened. It’s a bit of an anticlimax.’
It’s been a poignant week, this last, for thinking about what the Kingdom of God is like: one of witnessing new ministries begun and fresh discernments being made. This week has certainly attested to a God who is ever doing new things in the lives of those whom he is calling. Yet those new things don’t actually abolish what has gone before them or what is latent within us for the old, former things shape our story importantly, helping us see what is new as a movement in our narratives as they tend toward fulfilment in the Father, who is the new creation; the beginning of the beginning; who is everything without end. And the master of the house brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old to inaugurate that perpetual beginning.
Such is the Kingdom of God. We need both a past and a present. Our entire story is never lost to us as God uses it in the mystery of recreation which raises us to himself in future glory. This is both the power and the mystery of resurrection.
It is understandable why the partner or spouse of a new deacon or priest might find the first Monday after Petertide an anticlimax. What more can there be? It’s done; ordination has happened. Time to get on with the job. But what does that mean? What even is the job? How can I support them and sustain myself? Who am I now that this has happened to him or to her? It is understandable, but perhaps we need to look at it differently – looking into the wellspring of that baptismal life hidden with Christ in the heart of God.
Baptised life is not anticlimactic. It climbs from height to height and from beginning to beginning. And it is the life of the whole people of God: not merely you and me but us his gathered people, the church; the body needful of all its members. So my friend might consider that he need in actual fact, not do anything ‘next,’ for it is the sending master who brings out the new thing from the treasure-store of what is already given, what is latent and what is yet to be – what the Jesuit Gerry Hughes might have said is in fact the self – the field in which the Kingdom treasure lies hidden. Fathering-forth is going on independently of how we might perceive it. We have only to keep still; to keep listening and longing; to strive to follow a blameless course such that the kingdom of God may come near to us in and as the very persons we are.
I suggested to my friend that nothing offered in terms of help and support to his partner will be wasted. If one is supporting and loving an ordained person in particular, they are going to need that more than ever in the first weeks and months as head and heart shift into the right gear for the task in hand. This is also vocation; a creative work; a facet of what it is to be called and to shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony. As you give the stuff of all you are in the manner you have been sought and sent.
The seventy in today’s gospel are sent out precisely because they are dust and they can return dust. Even if they are unwelcome in a town, they must stay there, says Jesus, being as they are: those apostles called to testify where they are sent. And the message they impart is solely mediated through the resource of their very selfhood and givenness to the mission of God. Their only concrete possession is that self and what it offers: hands and feet for the healing of the sick and the witness to Christ in whose spirit they walk and to whom, as dust and through the release of dust, they testify.
Knowing my newly ordained friend as I have come to, I know he will expect nothing more and require nothing less to sustain him in ministry. I know that because it is all any of us can give and everything we have a right to expect. Love is the only means to fulfilling the law of Christ and that his chief requirement: that we love one another.
What other way of discipleship may truly sow to the Spirit and embody the grace of God? For if we don’t follow Christ as the people of the new creation he has made us, the redemptive power of the cross will go unrealised and the miracle of resurrection power be missed.
Note that this is not the case for the missionaries in our Gospel, to whom, even demons submit, Luke tells us Jesus is quick to point them to the new world wherein their names are writ large owing to who he has made them. And this is what matters. Not the content of our story, but the sheer lived nature of it; the continuing growth of awareness that to invest ourselves with all we have and are in the way of that cross will consistently remake the Kingdom of Heaven, overcoming the old order, defeating sin and death to create all anew in Him. And in all this is love: the love sprung from the crucified who has overcome the world.
Perhaps we are feeling at a point of anticlimax; not really knowing what to do next. Jesus understands, and this is precisely when he comes, stands in the midst of us and speaks peace. Pray that we remain long enough to know his nearness, let that peace rest on us and usher us onward to all that the new creation is; to all he will enable us to make of it. Namely, everything. AMEN