June 25, 2021
Categorised in: Sermons
Sermon twinmyvaccine 2 Cor 8 Trinity 4 2021
Beware the dangers-
when the Church wades in to politics-without due regard – it doesn’t do much to affect the politics, but it can ruin the religion…
This week the ABC had to add his own apology to that of the Church in Wales
and to that of a well-known cleric ,
after her, otherwise overlooked and insignificant twitter feed,
– like that of the cricketer Ollie Robsinson-
was revealed in the media to be full of… conspicuous foolishness.
Unlike Ollie Robinson however- these weren’t teenage stupidities
Her vile partisan commentary
was not written when she was 16
but WHILST she was Bishop of St Davids…
As Tony Compolo- pastor and former advisor to Bill Clinton once said:
“Mixing religion and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure.
It doesn’t do much to the manure
but it sure does ruin the ice cream”,
And so it is with some wariness
that I embark on a straightforwardly political address…
Our reading from Corinthians doesn’t leave me much choice does it?
“I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you,
writes St Paul to the well-off Corinthians:
but it is a question of a fair balance
between your present abundance
and their need in order that there may be a fair balance.”
I have often read this passage from Paul in the context of trying to persuade congregations to be generous and being cheerful in their regular giving.
But the truth is, that Paul’s letter is not really about tithing.
In truth, this appeal is part of Paul’s social teaching.
Paul is really concerned about countering conflict with reciprocity so that proof of the GOSPEL
may be offered to those who look on when they see disparate communities at PEACE with one another.
To bring about this peaceableness amongst the Christian Community
Paul continually appeals to the simple and intuitive idea of BALANCE.
As Murray Harris suggests in his commentary on the Greek Text:
In the ancient world, as now, BALANCE appeals to our sense
that in nature and in society
equilibrium leads to stability and health.
The recipient benefits because the gift alleviates an abnormal lack.
The giver benefits because the gift prevents
acclimation to an unsustainable abundance’. X2
Over millenia this basic ethic has developed into the Churches Social Teaching:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person. …
A Care for God’s Creation.
Most relevant for our readings TODAY, of course, is that principle of solidarity:
which is about recognising others as being integrally connected to us.
‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’
That perception that we made to be ONE in Christ
invites us- with a particular urgency-
to understand what life is like for others who are different from us.
We are called to consider others as our sisters and brothers
and demonstrate the truth of that perception
by actively working for their good.
‘If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.’ 1 Corinthians 12:26
Solidarity is not a ‘feeling of vague compassion that leads to CHARITY
On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering DOCTRINAL BELIEF
that our good is bound up with the Good of others,
A belief that leads to an inescapable determination
to commit oneself to a JUST COMMON ORDER.
As a result of these widely-held convictions the Church
has been involved in a great number of large scale movements
that have been basically unqualified successes.
Without going very far back- or straying into controversy
we might call to mind:
That coalition for the cancellation of third world debt by the year 2000.
The whole concept was explicitly derived
from the scriptural idea of the year of Jubilee, the 50th year.
as quoted in Leviticus,
where those enslaved because of debts are freed,
lands lost because of debt are returned,
and community torn by inequality is restored.
I wonder if you were involved?
I remember wearing a pin on my wedding day….
Moving on a few years, you may remember the Make Poverty History campaign leading up to the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles?
It was focussed on relieving absolute poverty, and campaigning on an unprecedented scale for Governments to do more to achieve the Millenium Development Goals.
Some of you might have marched, or written in, or raised money, or…
I think you can see there- a picture of a much younger me …
Pict-like and on my way to Gleneagles.
Both campaigns were notable successes:
Jubilee 2000 led to the cancellation of more than $100billion of debt.
Make Poverty History led to huge reductions in malaria-related deaths
And amazing reductions in the percentage of world’s population living in absolute poverty.
It seems to me that in these campaigns which received widespread support were and had wide-reaching success the Church can be said to have had a very good day at the office. Because of both- such was the change in culture, that the UK had become first major economy to meet the UN’s 0.7% target on aid spending and enshrined this in LAW. Its only 7p out of every £10 but that raised around £12 billion a year. The Church WITNESSED in a clear way to the truth of what we are:
Connected Equal and Valued
Understandably we have been occupied with our own affairs this last year. But as our own troubles fade the next challenge for Christian solidarity is quite clear.
There are very serious problems elsewhere that dwarf our own concerns. There is a devastating humanitarian disaster taking place right now in Ethiopia
A famine induced by war, theft, and indifference.
Based on the just-released numbers from Tigray, it is quite realistic to fear 300,000 child deaths – equivalent to half the pre-school children in London
or twice the number who have died from COVID 19 this year.
Meanwhile our government has broken their own AID pledge
to the tune of 2%- or 5 billon pounds.
Jesus never said ‘Charity begins at Home’.
He said ‘Love they neighbour AS THYSELF’.
When Jairus came to Jesus and begged him repeatedly:
‘My little daughter is at the point of death’ Jesus responded.
Likewise St Paul- albeit with more diplomacy- reminds us that
We should- as a nation- remember the benefits of BALANCE
And we must- as Christians- campaign again for SOLIDARITY.
We could start by campaigning to restore the Aid Budget but even less controversially we can share our vaccines.
The Vaccine imbalance facing us today is the DIRECT DESCENDANT of the imbalance facing the Corinthian Church
The Christian response is crystal clear:
What St Paul wrote then is so much more obviously true now:
“It is a question of a fair balance between our present abundance & their need,
so that their abundance may be for our need,
in order that there may be a fair balance”
We are ALL CONNECTED and equilibrium leads to stability and health.
Officially the Church of England is supporting the ‘VaccinAid’ campaign which aims to help fund the biggest vaccination drive in history.
Personally I am very moved by the efforts of Scott and Rowan Patterson, a clergy family from Somerset who started their ‘Twin My Vaccine’ JustGiving page to donate to UNICEF, the lead delivery partner for the COVAX scheme.
Its just a couple of thousand short of £200,000….
SHALL WE TRY AND TOP IT UP BY THE END OF THE DAY?
The wise vicar is wary of wading into politics from the pulpit too often.
Often- I stick to devotional sermons as a result.
However today I think the best thing most of us could do for our devotional life would be to exercise a little SOLIDARITY.
To lift up our heads, and recognise the stranger as our sibling
To acknowledge their needs as our own
To give something back ourselves
And to campaign for our government to do likewise.
As the Pattersons of Somerset put it:
“There is no better way to show our deep gratitude for the gifts of science and medicine than making sure vulnerable people around the world are also given a shot.
At the heart of the Christian faith is Christ’s call to love our neighbour: keeping one another safe from this terrible disease is part of living that out. I encourage people to donate whatever they can, so we can build a better world together.”