15 November, 2010

Homily for Evening Prayer (House Chapel)

This is a short address I gave tonight during Evening Prayer.
I hope it makes sense. (Mt 7:1-12)

Common tenure, working agreements, appraisal systems, management performance reviews, employment law, retirement age, mixed mode training, practical theology separated from dogmatics, more expensive training pathways, the Institute for Works of Religion, mission statements and mission-shaped-anything-you-like, bums on seats policy... 
The Church has engaged in a process of secularisation of its structures and behaviours, perhaps with the aim of making things more transparent and understandable to the outside world.
This is not a mere exercise of borrowing ideas from the secular world. No, its nature and scale tend to suggest that the actual Church has absorbed the worries of the world about money, status and serving more than one master.
Ask, and it shall be given to you; search, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened for you.
It is easy to say this, but in reality many of us share many concerns about our future ministry, about the future of residential training or more simply, if there will still be a Church by the time we retire, let alone a pension board.
However, deep down, we should also know that a secularised organization of the Church is perhaps not necessarily the best solution to our problems.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine.”
Tonight’s second reading offers another picture. The Sermon on the Mount – which our lectionary has unfolded for the past week – is coming to an end between tonight and tomorrow. It envisages another kind of community. Its wisdom sayings are rooted in the Jewish tradition; they present a type of living that is centred on God and articulated in our dealings with one another.
This should be a model for discipleship which could certainly inspire our common life here, but also it could provide a rule of life based on the concept of waiting upon God, which Graham has illustrated for us earlier in term.
Ask, and it shall be given to you; search, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened for you.
For the Matthean Sermon on the Mount, to follow Christ is to have a filial relationship with God; to wait upon Him and play our part without presuming that we could put the world to right with our own devices. Our part is to be the attentive recipients of these sayings.
It is not primarily a matter of what we do about the things they prescribe, but how we do them; or as famous New Testament scholar said “living in accordance to the Sermon on the Mount is a path to perfection. One should travel this path as far as possible. On the Day of Judgements the Son of Man will show just where the minimum righteousness lies”.
In this discourse, Matthew presents God as the Father, the provider of all good things and the Son of Man as the just and only judge, “before whom all lances are of equal length”, or as Luke’s Gospel puts it
Do not judge, and you will not be judged [...]. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
So, as seen as today it’s the only feria for this week, let me encourage you to explore the life of a great saint from Piedmont, my homeland. St Luigi Orione, the founder of the Sons of Divine Providence put into practice all these sayings, his model of Church was so dependent upon God that it would seem utter foolishness to the Ministry Division as it did for the Roman Curia in his time.
However, the truth of the Gospel remains; if we follow this path to perfection – both privately and as a community – all other things will be given unto us.

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