The Bishop of Monmouth kicked off our Lenten Sermon series on Mission with a look at the first Anglican Mark of Mission: To proclaim the Good news.
Luke 9:2 “….and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal”
Bishop & Fr Mark
Good to start this series of Lenten addresses which give us time to reflect upon the Diocesan theme Time for Mission.
Proclaim – is not an easy word for our society. Proclamations belong to a previous era and the nearest we get to them are government pronouncements, which rarely bring good news, or even news. As they say, bury hard decisions , at a time of a bad news story.
So people would be naturally sceptical about proclamations. Being Anglicans also, we are not so keen to bandy our wares. As an Anglican may I tentatively suggest that the church is not a bad thing……
Of course some of us prefer a more nuanced approach – let’s not so much proclaim as Facebook or Twitter the kingdom. A photograph always helps. Even so, directly or even directly, we are more than likely to be modest about presenting the good news.
We are in good company as St Francis of Assisi is attributed to have said. Preach the good news and if necessary use words. Or as is more commonly said actions speak louder than words..
I think you need both words and actions. But not hollow words for hollow men. Words full, replete with the gospel which can be seen, tasted and felt in a world which cries out for more than materialism. Sometimes we give spirit without body and body without spirit.
Let me give you an example. Throughout this town and area there are many who give service to others. Often working in charity shops, offering hospitality or assisting in food banks. It is done with a sense of commitment and humanity, but often not referenced to the gospel. Why are we so reluctant to acknowledge, gently and with sensitively that we work for Christ and his kingdom? Clergy and indeed the Holywell community can’t escape their role…their collars or their teeshirts proclaim that somehow God is involved with this person.
People of God, dear laity, don’t be shy faintly shamed of your baptismal birthright. Of course I don’t think you need to batter people with being religious – God knows, nobody needs that. But be natural in you goodness, let it come from the heart. If you are working, either in a secular context or church context, give the intention of the work to God. Make it a sacrament a hidden sign that your are in mission. Then God will bless your endeavours and your spirit will speak to another person’s spirit and who knows, God might be able to work amongst, you, the stealthy Holy Spirit who leaves a trail of love often only perceived after the event….
Clergy, I want to give you a challenge – let you words be replete with the fatness, the goodness of the Lord. My stay in South Africa was so important because I again saw the strength of the gospel in words as well as in relief of the poor. The church has love and affection amongst the people because it gives generously to the poor in the townships. But also it has a voice that is respected because of its influence during the breakup of Apartheid and the beginning of the new South Africa.
As I met Desmond Tutu last Friday I was reminded of his prophetic voice in the struggle for human rights and equal democracy. Likewise I read of Oliver Tambo a major stakeholder and friend of Nelson Mandela, who was a committed Anglican. The influence of the South African Anglican church was a contribution that we as Anglicans should be proud to be associated. Fat words, not hollow words that spoke of conviction and prophetic urgency.
It was good to meet Bishop Charles May, the new Bishop of the Highveld. He said that the challenge of the SA Anglican Church is once again to find its voice. After the establishment of the new South Africa the churches’ role was quickly forgotten and now we see the vulnerability of a government tempted by corruption and the trappings of power. A voice that needs to be heard, the good news of humanity found in Christ needs to be heard. No wonder God is the God of the poor…..they are often the only ones who are low enough to want to turn to him.
Yet, all is not lost. On our visit to the Highvled I saw the Bishop pray openly in a police station with the station commander. I saw him pray openly with school teachers and those who ran a disability home. I saw him pray openly with the beleaguered nurses who wept as they received the gift of a listening heart. All done, so naturally and without proclamation but stronger than steel and life giving as rain. Clergy, believe in your words, believe in your prayers, let your words be living words replete with the goodness of the Lord and let him do the work.
So here, in our land, in our town, we face the challenges of a society which at one level seems closed to the good news. But is isn’t, very few people are shut off from the spirit. They just need to hear and see it in their midst: they need to experience the quiet proclamation of deeds of love and the gentle words of conviction. They need to experience the integrity of a life that shows the good news. Speak, be silent, but in all things love. This is our mission , for this is our God and his Kingdom.
Next Sunday Canon Carol Wardman, Bishops’ Officer for Church and Society looks at ‘ To respond to human need by loving service’.