The readings on which this sermon is
based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r104.htm
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would have meant I would have had my license as a minister withdrawn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
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 ..'
http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm 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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