Fr David's Sermon
29th April 2007
‘It is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy, at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise, holy Father, heavenly King, almighty and eternal God, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.’ EP A
‘Thank you’. It’s something we say all the time, often with out any great thought. Sometimes we really mean it, such as when someone has done us some great good. It’s also something we like to hear, we like to be thanked.
I was struck by a piece by Giles Fraser, Vicar of Putney and columnist, who said he thought the task of the priest always comes down to saying, ‘thank you’. It was something my training incumbent in Wilmslow always stressed, the need to say thank you. I try, not always successfully, to remember this!
An APCM is of course an opportunity to say ‘ thank you’ to you all for carrying on the work of the Church here at St. Matthew’s week by week, day by day. All kinds of work goes on;- praying, admin (I was struck by how much the wardens have to do in advance of the Archdeacon’s visitation!), sacristy, musical, financial, cleaning, pastoral care, flower arranging, organising readers and intercessors, being present… so the list goes on. I’m sure we could add many more things. Often we only notice what goes on when it doesn’t happen on the odd rare occasion! So a big thank you to you all.
Of course the biggest privilege of the priest is to give voice to the biggest thank you of all, the great prayer of thanksgiving, which I quoted from at the beginning. It is the prayer, which lies at the heart of the Eucharist and has done so for 2000 years. Giving thanks to God in all things through Jesus Christ is the chief work of the church, a work in which we all share as the people of God. The Eucharist is after all properly something we all do together, not something which the priest says for the people.
Our readings today give expression to the curious nature of the church. At one level it is very ordinary, local and mundane. In Acts we remembered Tabitha or Dorcas an ordinary Christian who cared for others and was a skilled needlewoman in her little church at Joppa.
Yet the church is more than this. Sometimes in our own age churches are portrayed as clubs for people who like that sort of thing. And yet our other readings with their reference to things eternal, to the worship of heaven in the company of the saints and to Jesus’ care for his flock remind us that this is not so. So thanks be to God for through Jesus Christ for the mystery of his Church that is his body!
In polite company two things should never be mentioned, religion and politics. I mentioned one and now I’d like to mention the other.
I was struck by David Cameron’s recent speech speaking of the need to build a ‘responsible society’, one that does not always look to government to solve all our problems but rather one in which all exercise a responsibility for the common good. He gave various practical examples of how say government, schools, parents and members of the public might exercise such responsibility together, in this case for wayward children.
It is easy to be cynical of such expressions. After ten years out of government it is easy for opposition politicians to make platitudinous statements. It is always a danger for vicars too! (As an aside you’ll remember that Harold Macmillan famously observed that Prime Minister’s are either ‘bookies or bishops’ – both Tony Blair and David Cameron have been accused of falling into the latter category.)
I expect by now you think that I’m in danger of making a party political sermon and you’ll want to go out to make a cup of tea or see what’s on the otherside, so I’ll get to the point.
I would like to suggest that we should be seeking by God’s grace to become a responsible church, one in which we all take our responsibilities seriously. This means growing in the confident knowledge that we, each one of us are the church, by virtue of our Baptism. All have of us have a ministry, all of us have gifts to exercise and share.
In any church there is always a danger that the few do a lot and the many do a little. I don’t actually think that this is the case here, even if we do rely on a few to do a lot but there is always room for improvement. In saying this we must avoid the danger of seeing Christian discipleship as something that is exercised only in the local church and not in the world. We might not appear to do much here but in fact do an awful lot at work.
So if we feel we already do a lot then maybe we need to ask the Lord to show us what he wants us to give up and hand over. And if we feel we could do more then we can ask the Lord to show us what he want us to do in his service. This is about the most important ministry in which we all share, prayer. As we pray, as we discern, so God builds his church.
So to end, two thoughts:-
The first, to give thanks to God in all things and especially for all that he gives us as a church here at St. Matthew’s and the second that we should pray that God would enable us all to exercise own responsibility for building a responsible church.
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