“UNITED?”: A SERMON for
the start of
the week of prayer for Christian unity
Now you are the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
the week of prayer for Christian Unity -
some of you heard John Hughes from St David’s Parish Church
preach here this morning,
whilst I was preaching (and being made very welcome)
as visiting preacher at the Cathedral
Times have moved on since 1739
when John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement,
and of course an Anglican Priest,
preached in the morning at St Mary Arches
but was told by the Vicar not to return for the afternoon service
as his sermons were not guarded
and might lead people to enthusiasm or despair.
Despair and enthusiasm:
much in this dark world of ours that might provoke despair -
as the dust settles in Gaza,
as around the world the rich abuse their military and economic power
and the poor and the marginalised continue to cry out -
Rachel still crying in Rama.
whether we are Methodists or Anglicans or other denominations,
I hope that we can indeed share a common enthusiasm -
an enthusiasm for the gospel we share -
a Gospel which speaks of light in the darkness,
of Christ alongside the needy,
of God’s love for all his children.
One of the great cathedral organists of the 19th
was Samuel Sebastian Wesley, grandson of Charles Wesley.
SS Wesley was organist at Exeter Cathedral in the 1830s.
While he was here, the Mint installed an organ for the first time
and Samuel Sebastian Wesley agreed to cross the street and
play at the special services to mark the opening of the new organ.
Unfortunately, the Dean of the Cathedral got wind of this
and said Wesley couldn’t play in a Methodist Chapel,
so Wesley had to send last minute apologies!
Well again, times have changed,
and the Dean made me very welcome at the Cathedral today!
And if my
historical examples might seem aimed
at the Anglican side of the divide,
let us not be too complacent as Methodists -
rest assured I could give plenty of examples
of Methodist bigotry and intolerance too.
We all have much repenting to do on behalf of our forebears -
all the way back to the burning of 16th Century
Catholic and Protestant martyrs at Livery Dole and before.
Christians we need to learn to replace
the fires of bigotry with the fire of the Spirit.
Gospel today, Philip tells Nathaniel
that he has found a messenger from God - Jesus from Nazareth.
Nathaniel is dismissive.
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
He is blind to the man of God -
he just sees through the narrow glasses of stereotype and bigotry.
We need to learn to hear that God can speak
§ from Nazareth as well as from Jerusalem,
§ from Baptist as well as from Anglican,
§ from Catholic as well as from Methodist.
You may have seen the gruesome story in the papers
about the discovery of various human body parts
in an IKEA shopping bag in Edinburgh over the new year.
We are naturally and rightly appalled to think of someone
being presumably murdered and then dismembered like that.
forget - we are called to be the Body of Christ -
Christ has no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet -
we are called to be members of the Body of Christ.
forgive us, through our ecclesiastical wranglings and
we constantly dis-member that sacred Body.
isn’t the same thing as Uniformity.
We are not all called to be legs or arms, eyes or ears -
the Body of Christ is and must be diverse -
but it should be one body -
we are called as the Body of Christ to a life of Unity in Diversity.
Next Sunday evening we have one of our
conversation and discussion services when
Peter Coleman will introduce Iain MacDonald from Southernhay URC
to discuss “Why denominations?”
I hope that will give the opportunity to discuss something
of how we achieve unity in diversity,
both within and between our different denominations.
Meanwhile, we need to work at it:
Please support the programme of ecumenical lent House
And please put the Good Friday Walk of Witness in your diary -
and help with drama if you can.
of Unity don’t just materialise out of thin air -
they have to be forged.
the unity to which God calls us
is not just unity of the Church - it is the unity of the world.
As Christians we are called to work
for the unity and reconciliation of all people.
that in mind, let me ask you three questions
(or maybe one question asked in three ways):
(1) Would you buy patent hair restorer from a bald man?
(2) If two
parents live in separate buildings
and hardly ever speak to each other,
will they provide a good example of loving relationship for their children?
then a third: The Church rightly and
for peace and reconciliation in the world.
Do we expect the world to listen
to a divided Church urging unity and harmony?
Church we are called to proclaim the Kingdom in word and in deed -
in what we say and in how we live.
came into Galilee
proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom and saying “Follow Me”.
Church & as a Human race that is our challenge - “Follow me”
and that is our vision - The Kingdom of God.
The Book of Revelation has wonderful images of that
with the river of life flowing through the streets of the city of God.
When - as in God’s grace I pray we will -
we all enter the City of God,
I have to admit that there won’t be a Methodist Chapel
on the banks of the River of Life.
But neither do I expect to find a Cathedral
Nor exclusive clubs for the rich not ghettos for the poor,
nor immigration quotas
nor national flags in which to wrap ourselves
will be no bigotry, no Sectarianism, no division,
for this is God’s Kingdom - all will be one in Christ.
Kingdom of Unity, Peace, Justice and Love is coming,
and our calling is not just to wait for that Kingdom,
but to proclaim it,
to strive for is,
and as best we can reflect it
in our Churches and our lives.
Lord, may thy Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven!
Order of Service
6.30 p.m. Service of Holy Communion led by Rev Andrew Sails
Hymn 19 “With gladness we worship”
Prayers (Methodist Worship Book p 185)
Corinthians 12:12-27 (p.1153)
John 1:43-51 (p.1064)
Hymn 523 “Hushed was the evening hymn”
Hymn “Christian people sing together”
(© Marjorie Dobson, CCL Licence 58752 Tune HAP 272 Hyfrodol)
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer (MWB p. 187)
Hymn 610 “I come with joy”
Holy Communion (MWB p. 191)
Hymn 764 “Christ from whom all blessings flow”