Become a new Person
Sermon St Albans 17 June 2018
I did not know anyone like James Bond agent 007. I did not know Mr Skripal. But I did know Bill. And Bill ended up working for British intelligence. We were students together studying at Edinburgh University and, before we went our separate ways, Bill was instrumental in my becoming an Anglican. We attended St Columba's- by- the Castle. I did not take communion because I had not been confirmed. Earlier as a schoolboy, I had refused to be confirmed. My Grandmother was annoyed and reported me to the Vicar. The Vicar in turn sent the curate out to visit me. This was heavy stuff! It did not work: The curate thought I was into Bonhoeffer's religionless Christianity. And I went to University something of a heathen church attender!
But all that changed. Outside St Columba's-by-the Castle church, Bill suggested that I enquire about confirmation. A strange thing happened. I felt a push from behind me. It's a mystery to this day. On one hand it was a very subjective happening that had nothing to do with anything. On the other hand, one could say it was the hand of God motioning me to get on with it. Perhaps God was getting annoyed with me like my Grandmother.
All of us have experienced a singular event which was key to our spiritual life. It is a moment of assent; an expression of yes: I will go forward. “Here am I, Lord!” or it could be: “Alright I'll do it”. With enthusiasm or reluctance, it is our moment of assent and life unfolds before us: the map of our spiritual path. Along the way there are other points of assent. I remember the first time I knelt down to pray. I remember the power of humility; the acknowledgement of one greater than anyone else.
I give thanks for Bill. I was confirmed in the Scottish Episcopal Church. The life of faith began with several points of assent. Each of us have this in common - wherever faith has taken us, or whenever we arrived at a point of assent.
A. I believe that an assent to the presence of God makes us a new person: a new creation. When we say “yes” to Christ a world opens up in which we are “in Christ”. St Paul said: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” From the moment of assent we open the door to Christ: it all becomes possible. We are new people - a new creation in God’s world.
C.S.Lewis comments on today's epistle in the book: “God in the Dock”. He comments: “What are we to make of Christ? There is no question of what can make of Him; it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.” When God becomes central to one's life - we live a new life.
B. I believe that in this new life - this new creation - we become part of a community that is a community of faith.
Our true prosperity is in this community. The responsorial Psalm has a line: “Such as are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God”
Our community of faith is in an exciting time. Following a consultation with the Archdeacon, Vestry has been directed to develop a MISSION AND MINISTRY PLAN. Vestry is including the whole congregation in this and so is asking for your feedback on where the priorities lie.
[This is the sheet which informs you of this and there is a display in the undercroft]
Each of us here is a new creation - we are different and part of that is belonging to a community of faith.
So, in the moment of assent each one of us becomes a new creation with a new community. We are different also for another person…
C. I believe that as Anglicans in New Zealand we are different because our cultural base is wider.
Two weeks ago we had Corpus Christi celebration. The commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist. It was natural for the day remembering the Body of Christ to also remember the nature of the “body”. Anglicans in New Zealand come from different cultures. The total body calls us into partnership especially as European, Maori, and Pacific Islander. Our Corpus Christ was also a Te Pouhere Sunday.
Hence, we come here with a basic cultural background and also with other cultures that we co-operate with and attempt to appreciate better. I am Welsh but I'm also, through family, am aligned with Tongan culture, and, through priesthood, aligned with Maori culture. At times we share with the Indian Fijian Anglicans, and sometimes we use Maori Language. Soon I hope we can learn to chant the Lord's Prayer in Maori. It is a beautiful chant.
In conclusion our assent to Christ makes us a new creation - and, to be specific, we become part of a new creative community and become part of two other cultures: Tikanga Pasifica and Tikanga Maori. Our threefold partnership gives the Anglican Church in New Zealand the creation of a new Constitution!
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks for all the people who have led each of us to faith and for those who guide us on the spiritual path.[ I thank you for Bill and pray for my Grandmother]
As we follow you Lord Jesus make of us a new creation
- renew our community of faith
Guide us in a new mission and ministry plan here at St Albans.
- Renew our partnership with Anglicans of Tikanga Pasifica and Tikanga Maori . Amine.