Fr David’s sermon, 18 October 2015 at St Thomas’ Church
“…cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’.”
Why do we come to Church? Why are we do we call ourselves Christian? The answer to those questions lie within the celebration of St. Luke held thoughout the Church today.
The Gospel and related readings move us to consider that fundamental aspect of what it is to be Christian…a willing follower of the Christ of God. Christians are called to be Evangelists and Healers. We are not called to be comfortable and cosy; we are not called to be nicey nicey and every one’s doormat, we are not even called to expend all our energy maintaining historic buildings. Of course, creating a secure and loving church family environment is witnessing to the Gospel values of peace and love and mutual support for each other – of course, showing kindess and regarding the needs of others as greater than our own is to witness to the Gospel value of foot-washing service; of course, keeping the house of God in good order is showing due respect to, and giving glory to, God as a witness to his living presence…but without a spirit of Evangelism and Healing at its heart … Christianity becomes meaningless.
Jesus proclaims the task: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few” – there is a job to be done…we must get out there and claim disciples for Christ. But how?
Jesus commissions us: “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road” – do not get bogged down in material comforts, but travel light and hurry urgently about the Lord’s work…the gospel cannot be proclaimed if our arms and hands are full of stuff…in Jesus’ time only posh people wore sandals, we must be like the poor (did you know Fransiscan nuns and monks to this day go about barefoot – Muslims remove their shoes when entering holy places)
And Jesus warns us: “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves” – there is a cost to be paid for proclaiming Christ’s Gospel…being Evangelists and Healers in the name of Christ will hurt sometimes; we will be treated roughly…remember the Christian life is one of sacrifice.
The year is 1812 and Napoleon’s army is retreating from Russia after a series of heavy defeats. The weather is bitterly cold – the wind bitingly sharp and the snow falling. The men had been marching for days through the cold and the snow – food was scarce; all were hungry.
One night, one regiment set up camp to shelter from the weather. As the meagre rations were being prepared, one of the boys, whose job was to mind the wagons was passing the kitchen tent, thought he was unobserved, and quickly slipped in and took a slice of bread. But he was seen, by one of the soldiers on guard.
The next morning, the whole regiment was called on parade and the Commanding officer announced that yesterday evening, bread had been stolen form the pitiful supplies – whoever had been responsible for stealing that bread must step forward at once to be punished. There was silence in the bitterly cold air as the snowflakes fell. The boy stood there – what should he do? It was only a piece of bread. Then to his right a soldier stepped forward once pace. It was the soldier who had seen the boy stealing the bread. He was taken away and given 40 lashes.
That night the boy crept into the tent where the soldier had been taken after his lashing. He lay face down on a bed – his back bleeding and wounded. The boy slowly and tearfully asked: “Why did you do that? Why did you step forward and get punished. It was I who stole the bread.” “I know,” said the soldier. “I stepped forward so that you may go free. And that you might have the freedom one day, to pass that freedom on to someone else, who is desperate to be free.”
I gave what I could in order to save you…
So take heart…be Evangelists, be Healers and draw near, with thanksgiving, with penitence and faith, to the altar of the Lord, where we recollect and proclaim anew, the mystery of our salvation; where with St. Luke and all the angels and saints and the company of heaven, living and departed we praise the God of our salvation, and adore the mystery of Divine Love, in Christ’s Body broken and His Blood shed for us. Here, today, in this community, by you, the Gospel is proclaimed in word and sacrament and costly action… “so we may cure the sick…and say to them, the kingdom of God has come near to you…” Amen.