Living Sacrifices

February 2, 2020

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Preached by the Right Reverend Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester using Ex 13:1-16; Rom 12:1-8 at Evensong, the Installation of Canons service on Sunday 2nd of February 2020, Candlemas.

Many congratulations to our new Canons: to Charles, Erica and Marion. Thank you for taking up this role. Thank you also to all those who’ve travelled here from near and far: including from the North, the South and the middle of the Diocese. My reflections tonight will focus on Paul’s phrase from our Romans reading: ‘living sacrifice’.

How to Get it Done

“So, how shall we get it done?” This sounds like a Brexit question, but it may also be similar to the one discussed in the eternal council of God. The decision was: “Let us make humankind in our own image.” We are made in the image of the one who is the very image – the icon – of God: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even more challenging than agreeing how to get Brexit done was the discussion, in the divine council, as to how God was to create a world which, whilst being completely different from God, could also through human beings freely relate to God in deep fellowship. The Biblical tradition tells us that God was willing to pay the price – to live the sacrifice – from the beginning, enacted in history, to make this to happen.

Jesus Christ was slain before the foundation of the world because God was willing to make the sacrifice of bringing a whole world to share in his glory through a relationship of fellowship and love. So even though everything was created good, even very good, there is no good thing which has not also been redeemed. Jesus came to complete creation but also to show the cost of making fellowship possible.

So when Paul in Romans says, ‘Therefore by the mercies of God present yourselves as a living sacrifice’, he is drawing us into the great mercy of God, God’s sacrificial love for us, asking that we reciprocate by presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice. This is a way of life: it’s not just a spiritual feeling. At the end of the Communion service we say, “We offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice” … in the world.

Our New Canons

What’s the point of Cathedral Canons? Well, there are many good things about Canons, but I want to emphasise just one thing – and it’s a challenge to the Canons themselves. Canons are called to be examples. They give us a practical and living example of what a good Christian looks like that others can follow. They are, if you like, the kind of living sacrifice other people can look to in thinking about how to live.

So Marion, Erica and Charles, there’s no pressure, but we think you’re the sort of people that others can look up to. Now, before there are any objections from anyone here, let me say we know you’re not saints. But you are the sort of sinners others can turn to as examples of those who are redeemed and are living in response to the mercies of God in ways that are inspiring, challenging and encouraging of others. In other words, we think you are the kind of people who are living sacrifices: you are becoming like Jesus in the way he gave himself as God’s living sacrifice in the creation, redemption and fulfilment of the world.

So, Erica, thank you for the example you’ve set in the ministry of Caraway: as City Chaplain to the elderly in Southampton you have worked in partnership with others in voluntary and statutory sectors to be an advocate for the older person and to help resource those who are physically and cognitively vulnerable. In the Counties of Hampshire and E Dorset where our population is getting older that is a significant ministry. Thank you for setting an example others can follow, especially those in the Anna Chaplaincy ministry which began in this Diocese and which has been of special interest for us today when we remember Jesus being presented in the Temple and being met by two older people: Anna and Simeon.

Charles, thank you for your commitment over many years, including your time here as Precentor, to building up the quality of worship that engages people’s hearts and minds. It is wonderful that in your current role at Christchurch Priory, in what we now call a Major Church, you have committed yourself to a form of renewal that will resource the wider church as well as the local congregation in their daily lives. I look forward to seeing how you develop this ministry, particularly in dialogue with the HeartEdge initiative from St Martins-in-the-Fields with its vision for engaging culture, community and commerce.

Marion, thank you for your commitment to lay ministry in the parish. But you have not only supported the building up of lay ministry and the ordained ministry of female priests, you have also committed yourself to the national vision whose report is now out: Calling All God’s People. You have shown others what it means to live for Christ in daily life, emphasising the everyday faith that goes with the callings most of us have in the everyday world of work, home and in our communities. Thank you for leading this mission of the whole people of God in your parish & deanery, encouraging us to be living sacrifices.

Charles, Marion and Erica, you will now be joining the Greater Chapter and I’m sure you’ll bring all the riches of your gifts to that fellowship and to the life of this Cathedral. Thank you for becoming our Canons. May the Lord inspire you to give yourselves, to be his living sacrifice, and to thereby draw others to him.