The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at
s178e04 Lockleys Sunday 11 13/6/2004
"It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me". Galatians 2.20
I remember years ago when I was younger but just as silly, in my "charismatic" days, we used to sing: "It's no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me." I can still remember the jaunty tune, though I've lost the book from which it came. No doubt I will be humming it in my head for several days to come :-) ! Even Charismatics appeal to "old English" words to cement their relationship with the divine and not just Anglicans.
I have made comments about King David, Uriah and Bathsheba recently, and I've preached on the gospel a couple of times now, so it's time to look at the epistle.
Galatians and Romans are the classic texts of St Paul that contrast living by faith and living by the works of the law commended by the letter of James. For me, James speaks against uncharitable faith, which is about as helpful as uncharitable law. I was grateful for the words of Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ when he comments: "For (James), the part of the body you need to watch closely is the tongue, because it feeds arrogant and divisive behaviour --- When thinking of sinful bodily members, later Catholic moralists set their sights somewhat lower." Not just Catholic ones, I would say :-) ! In reality, neither law nor faith (if such are opposed) permits us to be uncharitable towards others. Uncharitableness thwarts the whole purpose of both law and faith. Fr Hamilton comments: "What James meant, perhaps, is that there is a lightness, almost anarchic spirit, in Christian faith that naturally expresses itself in generous and counter-cultural living. Maybe that is why the Letter of James has an important place in Scriptures. Maybe, too, that is why he is usually unfashionable." ("Eureka Street May 2004 p7)
And it is a nice sentiment that we want Christ to live in me, though it has overtones of a very personal religion. The Rev'd Herbert Draesel, visiting South Australia from New York, commented in his address to our recent Synod how often our music talks about "my" God and "my" Jesus, with little or no recognition of anyone else or the corporate life, and hence the love with which we are called to show towards others. My heart warmed, because I've just begun a study of the book of Psalms, to see how often the psalms make reference to "my" enemies or my personal welfare. Then I am listing the ones where they make reference to the nation and Israel's enemies and their continued existence. This can be viewed as the personal one writ large. Then there are some that talk about "God's" enemies, who can of course be very easily confused with "my" opponents or those attacking the ancient people of God. These categories cover by far the majority of the book! So the book of Psalms predominantly involves conflict, soliciting God's help to aid against one's personal or national foes, both of whom can easily be viewed as God's enemies. It is no wonder I find it an oppressive book.
But other parts of the Old Testament are not this homogeneous. The prophet Jeremiah sees Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, as God's agent, in punishment for the apostasy of the people of God. (Jer 32:26ff) Being the people of God was and is not an easy thing. Claiming that "Christ lives in me" can as easily be used as an excuse to be uncharitable towards other people, as the law and faith can also be similarly misused.
If Christ lives in me and you, then we are likely to do similar things to what Jesus did. I don't think that we are called to wear long hair, jeans and sandals, and have a perpetual beatific countenance. We are called to do as Jesus did, in his relationships with other people.
The gospel reading gives us a clear example of what Jesus did. Firstly he accepted the invitation to dine in the Pharisee's house. Jesus accepted the hospitality of his host. I am not sure that I would offer the Premier, the Governor or the Mayor water to wash their feet before attending our worship. I suspect they would think that I was having a go at them. I would be happy to kiss the Governor, she being a female type person, but I'm sure that the Premier and the Mayor would be happy if I omitted this greeting. Then again I suspect that the Governor would not appreciate her hairdo being wrecked by anointing her head with oil :-) ! But Jesus accepted without comment or complaint the hospitality offered to him from the Pharisee. But then he also accepted the offerings that this woman made towards him. We should note that it was the Pharisee who thought in his heart that he should not accept the devotions of the woman. Jesus accepts where the religious demur. So Jesus accepts all devotion, whether begrudging like that of the Pharisee, or obsequious, like that of the woman.
So if Christ lives in us, we too will accept what is offered to God, the begrudging gift as well as the obsequious one.
If I have really been crucified with Christ, what I may think or not think about another person's offering is immaterial. Jesus accepts it on equal terms to the offering I bring.
We see again and again the paradigm of the motivation behind Cain killing his brother Abel, because he perceived; now we are given to see incorrectly; that his brother's offering was preferred over his own. Again the Pharisee gets angry because he perceives the obsequious outpouring of devotion by this woman, seems to be preferred to his formal hosting.
If Christ lives in us, we too are bidden to accept offerings, forgive sins and get on with others. Anglicans have been want to be suspicious of the offerings of people other than themselves; especially if they are of the "catholic" or "evangelical" variety, for the sin of having a different church-person-ship is unforgivable, and God certainly doesn't want us to put up with such recalcitrant, indeed unrepentant, individuals.
I personally have been welcomed to preach in most of the parishes in this Diocese. I have had an opportunity to find this out, because of my role as Chaplain to the Mothers Union some years ago. There is one church where I would not be allowed to celebrate the Holy Communion however, and it is the one where (supposedly) the liturgy is most flexible!
Recently in a statement from the Primates of the Council of the Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) the issue of "repentance" is raised. (http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/38/00/acns3814.cfm)
"The (Eames) Commission is requested to call ECUSA to repentance giving it a three-month period to show signs of such repentance. Failing that, discipline should be applied. As CAPA Primates we stand firm to what we have decided that if there is no sign of repentance on the part of ECUSA, the consequences will determine the next line of action."
Again, one of our colleagues recently asked that the statement of apology from the Church concerning sexual abuse, contain the "biblical" word "repent"; being sorry that something wrong has happened. For me, Jesus reinterprets the "biblical" concept of repentance, to make it mean "rejoice with me".
The "biblical" concept of repentance seems to me somewhat different from accepting, forgiving and getting on with others, which the re-interpretation of Jesus reinforces.
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