Sunday 17th October 

Eat what is set before you, cure the sick that are there, and say The kingdom of God has come near to you.

I want us to think about this great charge of St. Luke – The great physician and disciple who we remember tomorrow.

Eat what is set before you, cure the sick that are there, and say The kingdom of God has come near to you.

It is -1 put it to you – an excellent formula for the mission of this Cathedral, for our common life together- be intentionally familiar but surprising.


First- the familiar: eat what is set before you- just be with others, with them and alongside them.

Be as we all are just like we all are. Be in and everywhere in our culture.

And then secondly the surprise: cure the sick that are there

Doing something that is a sign like we will later in this service – that is not as we all are.

Do something that is extraordinary.

Pray for people to be healed. Be hospitable. Be Forgiving. Be different.

The familiar and the surprising. Two moves and one punchline: ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’


Way above our heads – another fifty or a hundred feet above the ceiling we can see skilled workers have been patching up our South Nave roof.

That part of the roof hasn’t been re-leaded for a hundred years or so.

And it leaks….

Across the road, Masons are repairing an age old gate – so that strangers and pilgrims to this place can have solace and sanctuary in its gardens….

Right in front of us the Great Organ is due for an expensive upgrade.

So the hearts of those yet to be born can be swelled in praise and their spirits lifted beyond themselves.


There are those who will be surprised that anyone would make this investment at all.

If the Church is dying off?

It’s hardly the time for such investment, it is?

Even more common, will be those who think – oh how lovely.I’m sure they’ll enjoy that.

Those people who go to church – the churchy ones or maybe the tourists: That’ll be nice for them.

The surprise for them -1 hope not for us – but very likely for them, is that this fabric renewal program is not for us at all.

In 1891 attempting to drive a middle way between consumerism and communism- one that guaranteed both private property and a living wage.

Roman Catholic Social teaching began to speak about a concept called ‘The common good’.

The ‘common’ means that there are goods – ‘things’ we all value, but do not own.

Things the economist John Rawl’s described as: “certain general conditions that are… equally to everyone’s advantage”

Examples include:

  • A sustainable future
  • The environment
  • An equitable society
  • Our freedom to worship

Imagine people holding a bowl filled to the brim with water – everyone with a hand on it – each depending on the other to hold up their end.

Because that water – that resource is one which they all hold in common.

It is the common good.

Of course it is not a new idea – the apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas says for instance:

‘Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already [fully] justified, but gather instead to seek together your common good.”


Or, as it was referenced by allusion, and with heavy irony, in Dickens’s memorable barb:

“Every man for himself, said the elephant as he danced among the chickens”


What St. Luke teaches us today is that sitting and eating what is set before us; being with others, alongside others in our society, pursuing with them goods we value and hold in common with them is fundamental to our life as Christians.

Christians cannot say anything interesting to others.

We certainly cannot hope to say anything prophetic to them unless we are first with them and for them pursuing the common good.

It is only then that we can discover together the great surprise of the gospel.


But such a vision is in danger.

When I was serving my curacy, I organised a three-way cathedral exchange between the cathedral in Derby, where I was, the cathedral in Nashville and the cathedral in Kolkatta.

On my visit to the States there were many things to learn from and to imitate, but one of the things I was saddened by was that for the vast majority of the week the Anglican Cathedral was shut.

Closed. Tidied away. Nice and clean for the Sunday congregation.

It is maybe what people have come to expect in that privatised society.

By total contrast the cathedral in Kolkatta – with far fewer resources – Acted – with total blurring of any tidy boundaries – as a parish church for that whole teeming city.

At Christmas – if you can believe it – their compound received over 100,000 visitors – of all religions and none – with no examination of intention – but instead, an open handed welcome to any who would come.


It is interesting to ask ourselves – where do we sit on that spectrum?

And if we can place the cathedral? What of the Church of England & its parishes?

St. Luke tells us – to go – to be with the culture around you, to work for the common good and then from that place something can arise.

Then we can do something extraordinary.

And be a sign that the kingdom has come near.

We must never give in to the temptation to privatise our faith and our Church or to give into the easy congregational clubi-ness. That is the constant temptation of the church.

Friends, the whole reason we strive to renew and restore this cathedral is not because the Christians who gather to worship here need it to be so. We don’t actually, but it is so that we may hold it out for OTHERS all those whom the Church of England exists to serve.

To everyone who looks to it – with frail hope – to see a glimpse of a sign that the kingdom has come near.

This Cathedral – like our gospel – and our Church of England is not an Anglican possession.

That would be a storyline everyone would expect.

This place and the faith it proclaims is a universal Common Good.

Even if others do not yet know it, and even if they are not holding up their end.

This Good Gift is theirs too.

We are all called to the exciting ministry of the Church of England. That Cathedrals – now more than everneed to be exemplars of:


  • Hospitality to the awkward. Forgiveness with the unforgiving. Telling the truth when it is uncomfortable.
  • Stepping aside so others can take centre stage
  • Praying faithfully – even when it doesn’t seem to be working.
  • Having faith against the odds in strange things like healing.
  • Being generous with the demanding. Befriending the difficult.
  • Giving sacrificially
  • Backing lost causes.
  • Chasing after the good.
  • Being seen with all the wrong people


(All these things are the surprises that bring the gospel alive)

FRIENDS, the world has no need of a Church, that has so turned in on itself that it has become an alien country.

It needs something that looks, feels like, and really is common ground Their Church of England – not ours.

Neither does the world need a Church that is frightened of its own vocation that cannot confidently declare the wonderful gospel it has been given.

It really needs His good news.

Let us remember the formula of the Good Doctor, St Luke:

Whenever you enter this town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there – and say to them:

There is here in our common good, strength for weak hands and feeble knees.

There is here, water in the wilderness.

There is here, justice and recompense.

And there is here too, oil for healing.

There is here, the bread of life and the cup of salvation

Here – on this our common, holy ground, the kingdom of God can come near to you too!