Preacher: Canon Neil Thompson, Precentor
27 July 2008, 08:00 (Trinity 10)
On a summer’s day here in the south of England in 2008, the readings that we have just heard sound quite distant and for the majority of those around us in society, irrelevant. St Paul speaks to the church at Corinth, and indeed to you and me, about spiritual gifts distributed across God’s family and which enable us as a people to recognise God’s presence on Jesus Christ and his voice and life today. Now the Gospel passage seems much more challenging, speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem and the violation of the holiness of the Temple by the traders, charlatans and profiteers. Jerusalem was indeed destroyed within years of Jesus’ words in AD70, and the Emperor Hadrian, much in the news with a major exhibition at the British Museum, was to expel the Jews from their homeland in 135CE until its restoration in 1948.
So how do the spiritual and temporal power and politics relate to another? Well, we live in an age that is blessed in this land with plenty, comfort and even daily excess. For example, every weekend the High Street and even the Precinct ring to alcohol-fuelled aggression and violence. And this is bit a tiny indicator of a society that does not know how to live with affluence and how to empower all its members with a sense of worth and purpose and discipline.
And why?...because the spiritual is deemed unimportant, private and mostly, if not completely, irrelevant.
Nothing is really regarded as sacred anymore – and sadly in school and home as well as the market place, money alone is the value by which everything is commonly and socially valued.
It was this that ate away at religious practice in Jesus’ day and is epitomised in his cleansing of the Temple. And he warned not just those around him but all ages, that our certainties are arrogant, misplaced and doomed without God and the humility and love that are inherent in those who worship and serve him. People in our land are in a holiday mood, schools are breaking up and even the sun is shining but the truth and God’s justice allows no time off.
For most of the world there is oppression, disadvantage, suffering and need. Our prayers and our lives must not ignore their call just because we can turn away and ignore them. For it is there in the needs of our neighbour and the injustices of this world that God lives and speaks and judges you and me. God and his Spirit are that near and that real: his truth demands our full engagement in the world, in politics and money and change.
But at all times we must take care to remember that none of us can ever own the truth or possess the knowledge or the power that belongs alone to God.
That is why we need each other in worshipping and serving God in Jesus. And that is why our Collect for this Sunday prays:
Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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