The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s108g15  Fifth Sunday of Easter   3/5/2015

‘Abide in me as I abide in you.’   John 15:4

Ah!, how comforting these words are!   Jesus is here in church with us - we are abiding in him and he in us ..   ‘Jesus is a friend of mine, praise Him!’  (1)  All the world’s problems are solved ..   Well, no, not even any of my problems are solved ..  

The words tell us that we are bidden to bear fruit and so are subject to pruning.  The words aren’t as comforting as they might seem.   Of course if we were to believe our GAFCON (2) colleagues we liberals deserve to be pruned because of our departure from the biblical faith that women are second class citizens and gay and lesbian people shouldn’t exist.

But if my thesis that the risen Jesus is ever found in the world, if we are to abide in Jesus, we also need to abide in the world.

In a conversation recently (thanks Kathryn) she observed that ‘normal’ medical professionals run a mile from discussing faith and spirituality.   These words put in sharp focus the problem for the church.   Here we have people engaged in healing, an activity which has always been viewed as a calling.   (In other words they must work long hours and not expect much renumeration! :-)   Each and every day I see the lame being enabled to walk, sight given to the blind, the deaf enabled to hear, those facing heart surgery or a cancer diagnosis given new life.   And these miracles are achieved not by the lone practitioner, but by a team of people, working together, appreciating their dependence on the other members of the team.   As I have commented earlier, as dependent on the cleaners as the surgeons.   And I observe that these miracles happen without the name of Jesus being mentioned, the cross and resurrection invoked, or prayer to any particular god articulated in a corporate way.   But lives continue to be changed, mostly for the better.

All the evidence points to this cooperative secular effort being effective day after day - in stark contrast to the church which is seen as standoffish, divided and divisive; where the recent convert is the most strident.

All the evidence points to a highly effective secular spirituality which is unrecognised both by the professionals and the church which claims a monopoly on orthodoxy.

All the evidence points to the fact that the world would be a better place exploring and emulating the secular spirituality of health professionals than adhering to a set of arcane doctrines with the church’s imprimatur, set in stone, centuries before there was even an aspirin.

All the evidence points to the fact that doctors and nurses, incarnate in the world and working as a team are immeasurably more effective in changing lives than any lone preacher no matter how charismatic.   They demonstrate the effectiveness of working together cooperatively, a far better approximation to love than sectarians trying to impose on the world the secondary place of women and the evils of intimacy between persons of the same gender.

And what does membership of a church add to the miracles I listed above?   Is our god so insecure that he/she needs constant acknowledgement and thanks?   We in the church have to deal with a God who freely blesses secular endeavour abundantly.

Recently I have been listening to some talks about ‘creativity’ (3) and the constant message has been that creativity is never in a vacuum.   ‘Ordinary’ individuals like me, with a background in engineering rather than arts, have oft lamented our inability to paint or sculpt or whatever.   The precept that there are specially gifted artists and then there are others, pervades our thinking and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But, on the other hand, many in western society will happily claim to be spiritual rather than religious.   Oops!   To acknowledge a spirituality's surely to claim a personal creativity, a personal truth fundamental to our being, which orthodoxy neither acknowledges nor appreciates.  

Indeed because creativity is never in a vacuum, we see successful companies are characterised by collaborative creativity, and again I would contend that the hospital is a particularly obvious exemplar.   Successful companies acknowledge and foster the creativity of all.   And surely working for an organisation which seeks out the individual gifts of employees to utilise would be a good place in which to work.   Again, the hospital seems to do this better than the church, where submission, emulation and compliance are paramount.   A hospital resisting the exponential advances of technology is doomed to irrelevance and fit only for relegation to the dustbin of history, like my first computer of only thirty years ago.  

One of the few things I remember I learned as an engineer was that no matter how correct the answer I gave, if it was the wrong question, my answer was always going to be wrong.   Finding the correct question is the most important part of the exercise.  

If my thesis that life in all its fulness comes as we recognise and embrace our personal creativity and through collaboration with others in community see it mature, it is clear that the submission, emulation and compliance demanded by some parts of our church are the absolute antithesis of this.  

2.  Global Anglican Future Conference
3.  e.g.