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s104e12  Easter Day  8/4/2012

'Christ died for our sins'  1 Corinthians 15.3

Recently I read the statement: ‘We are who we are as Christians because of the death and resurrection of Christ.   If the salvation events had not happened to reconcile us to God, then we would not be Christians, let alone Anglicans ..’

God and Jesus are not especially interested in forgiveness of our sins or about us being reconciled to the divine.   It might help me salve my own conscience for a time, but if that’s all it does, then it’s all about me, me, me!   It is spiritual selfishness.  God's real concern is with evil.   And evil is about giving only to those who respond in kind, giving only to our family - a la the Mafia, and giving only to our spiritual family, those in the pews who are to be seen and not heard.

I am a sinner.   If nothing else, I have been divorced and remarried.   In some ways this has been the most significant period of growth in my life - not because 'intellectually' I ever thought I was ever any better than other people, but being divorced and remarried means I can have no claim to holiness, nor any particular claim to being worldly savvy.   I continue to find how the fact of my divorce and remarriage means that people now feel comfortable to relate to me.   My divorce and remarriage has opened up to me so many more relationships.   In the past I sometimes thought that there was always a reserve.   Perhaps some people wondered if I was only pretending to not be better than anyone else.

And I know of one diocese in Australia where the fact of my divorce would have meant I would have had my license as a minister withdrawn instantly.   Curiously it is one which prides itself on faithfulness to St Paul’s teaching of justification by faith in the reformed evangelical tradition.

But I can assure all that I am a happier person, not just because I am now married to Mary, but also because of the other real friends I have made, being a sinner like everyone else.   Happier and healthier.   And this makes me wonder how many devout and orthodox people, continually berating their sins, never forgive themselves.   I recall a colleague commenting that in the 1662 Communion Service, after the absolution came the four passages from scripture, the ‘comfortable words’, then soon after the ‘We do not presume’ prayer.   After receiving the Holy Communion the ‘Gloria’ was said or sung, with its three fold petition to ‘have mercy on us’.    He commented that perhaps Cranmer didn’t actually believe the words of absolution.

St Paul talks about the risen Jesus appearing to all these groups of people, people mostly with whom he disagreed, Cephas, the 12, the 500, James, the apostles and then to Paul himself.   Jesus didn’t die and rise again for my sins, but for everyone’s sins, and not so that all these forgiven people could spend their lives anxiously wondering if this were actually true, but so that they could get on with one another.  

If the object of the exercise is to make us ‘Anglicans’ or ‘christians’ we have lost the vision that we are to be as charitable to those who aren’t Anglicans of our particular flavour, people who aren’t ‘christians’, people who aren’t people of faith, charitable even to gay and lesbian persons.

Jesus didn't die for the sins of those who recognise the fact and praise him.   Jesus died for the sins of the whole world and this surely means that we relate to everyone else on an entirely equal basis.  

And surely this is the essence of the risen life, a life unfettered, not just by sins but also by the boundaries of faith, race, colour, language, culture, gender and intimacy preferences.   If the risen life is being eternally anxious about the fact of our forgiveness, the sort of life that some 'christians' and Anglicans now lead, then I want no part of it.   If nothing else it would be unendingly boring.

No, for me the risen life is full of richness as we recognise the integrity of people of other faiths, the essential humanity of people of every race, the beauty of appearance of people of other coloured skin, the richness of different languages and cultures, and o rejoice in the differences between the genders.

Archbishop Rowan Williams talks about what gay and lesbian persons can teach us about relationships in his remarkable essay 'The Body's Grace':   'Same-sex love annoyingly poses the question of what the meaning of desire is in itself, not considered as instrumental to some other process (the peopling of the world); and this immediately brings us up against the possibility not only of pain and humiliation without any clear payoff', but - just as worryingly - of non-functional joy ..'   Here is the reason for gay and lesbian mardi gras and the reason for the conservative opposition to them.   They show us that intimacy is not just functional but it's meant to be about joy.   In the words of the 1662 Prayer Book 'With my body I thee worship'.

To say that the 'christian' life is only about Jesus dying for my sins is to blind ourselves to the riches of real life that God puts all around us.

This is the joy of eternal life, here and now, and all we have to do is get on with it.

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