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/ 6 April 2021

Chrism Eucharist Sermon 2021

Location: St Paul’s Cathedral
Date: 01/04/2021

Georgina Graham, Operations Manager in the Two Cities, Archdeaconry of London, preached at the Chrism Eucharist service on Maundy Thursday. 

Good Morning
For Those Of You Who Did Not Peek At The Order Of Service Before Today No, Bishop Sarah Is Not Going To Suddenly Shout April Fool
And Assume Her Place In The Pulpit! And For Further Clarification
No, I Am Not Ordained And Yes I Am A Methodist!
May Neither Of These Two Intangible Facts
Give You Pause …
Because I Only Have Ten Minutes
And As I Said, I Am A Methodist, So You Do Know I Could Stay Here For At Least Twenty!

No Man Is An Island, Entire Of Itself;
Every Man Is A Piece Of The Continent, A Part Of The Main. Any Man’s Death Diminishes Me,
Because I Am Involved In Mankind,
And Therefore Never Send To Know For Whom The Bell Tolls; It Tolls For Thee.

These Words Are Probably Some Of The Most Well Known Poetry Attributed To John Donne

Who Was A Dean Of This Cathedral And Whose Death Occurred 390 Years Ago Yesterday.

The Lines, Though Considered Poetry, Were Actually Taken From
Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions,
Written During An Unknown Illness
That He Believed Would Bring About His Death
In The Prose He Went On To Say
Neither Can We Call This A Borrowing Of Misery,
As Though We Were Not Miserable Enough Ourselves
But Must Take Upon Us The Misery Of Our Neighbours.

He Says – It Would Be Okay If We Did
Because Affliction Is A Treasure!
And Maybe This Past Year Has Taught Us Just That!

Really, You May Ask?

When, As We Look Forward To Our Second Locked Down Easter
And Backward To A Year Of Global Trial And Tribulation
That Few In Living Memory Can Recall Occurring In Such Collective Woe
Can We Help But Wonder,
What Next?
When Will This End
When Will We Return To ‘Normal’,

A New Normal?

Well Folks This Is It
So, Should We Close Our Bibles And Our Churches And Go Home?
That Was Rhetorical!
Of Course, The Answer Is No.
Why Is It No – Because As Donne Told Us
No Man Is An Island
Affliction Can Be A Treasure
And The Sense Of Unity Engendered
By The Nation’s Response To Covid
Reminds Us All That We Are In Communion
With God And With Each Other.

And Today As You Renew Your Ordination Vows
As You Recall Your Calling & Commissioning
… Maybe Not Quite In The Way We Would Have Wished
May That Sense Of Unity And At Oneness Be Magnified And Maximised.

So Here We Are Betwixt And Between:
Challenged By The Tension Of What Has Past
And Yet Cheered By The Hope Of What Might Come.

As Our Old Testament Reading Revealed
God Always Has A Plan –
For David, The Youngest Son Of Jesse,
Even Before We Knew His Name.
David Did Not Know,
That His Years Shepherding A Flock
Would Prepare Him To Shepherd The People Of Israel.
Wilderness Is Not Wasted.

God Asked Samuel
How Long Will You Mourn For Saul
Thinking That Was A Rhetorical Question!
Like After Being Told Off – My Mum Would Ask Me
Why Are You Crying.
Hint – She Wasn’t Really Asking!

And Surely For Us Today
Saul Must Represent What Has Past
And We Too Should Not Hanker After
What May Now Seem To Some As Halcyon Days.

‘Saul’ Is No Longer Where God Wants Us To Be.
Even While We Are In The Grip Of This Thorny Covid Crown
We Know It Will Be Replaced By A Glory Crown.
The Crown Of Life.

And We See In Our Epistle
That Even In Our Weakness, There Is Strength.
Indeed, Especially In Our Weakness.

And Today, If You Remember One Thing From This Sermon
Let It Be That
In Our Weakness, We Witness God’s Completeness.
And I Love The Word Witness
Because It Is An Act, An Attestation And A Manifestation
In Our Weakness, We Witness God’s Completeness.
Do You? Are You? Can You?

I Must Confess
To Feeling Somewhat Like Paul,
In This His Likely Third Letter To The Influential
And Yet Ill-Advised People Of Corinth
Gathered There By Virtue Of Its Geographic Accessibility And New Found Status –
And Paul Wants Them To Recognise Their Own Stiff-Neckedness
You Can Imagine Today, The Corinthians Would Be Shouting
‘You’re On Mute Paul – We Can’t Hear You!’

Like Paul, Do I Need To Prove My Worth, My Legitimacy For Standing Here
Do I Need To Be Profound And Yet Witty
Will My Hermeneutic Of Suspicion Be Met With Derision
But Then
Like Paul
I Realised This Is Not About Me
This Is About Christ
Incarnate, Crucified, Resurrected, Ascended.
Our New Covenant.
Building On The First
With A Freedom Borne Of The Spirit.
Pneuma, Breath – To Which All Are Entitled Equally.

Everything About Christ
Turns The Received Wisdom On Its Head
The Paradox Of The Cross –
Where Purpose Can Feel Like Pain
Power Looks Like Impotence
And Success Looks Like Serving At The Table
Not Sitting At It.

The Cross Is Not Fake News, Nor Alternative Facts
It Is An Alternate Reality
Earthly Power Is Subverted
The First Will Be Last And The Last Will Be First

The God Of This World Promotes Disunity, Disharmony, And Disarray
We Cannot Ignore The Polarised Society We Live In
As Bob Marley Might Say

The Isms And Schisms
Or Maybe For Those Of You With A Proclivity For Latin Mass
The Sumpsimus And The Mumpsimus!
So If You’re Counting How Many Times I Have Split My Infinitives
May You Boldly
Go Move Your Stiff Neck
And Check Your Veil!

But Which Of Our Own Veils Still Needs To Be Lifted?

We, Like The Corinthians
Can Be So Blinded And Shielded By Our Own Sense Of Rightness
(Cheered On By The Mavens Of Mass Media)
That The Facts Become Inconvenient Truths
Jesus Says Follow Me
Instagram Asks How Many Followers Do You Have?
(Other Social Media Platforms Are Available)

Jesus Ignored Those Who Would Try To Curry Favour
And Favoured Those Who Had No Currency
Christ Chose Outsiders
And Made Them Whole
Yet The World Follows Influencers
Who Convince Us We Are Not Enough

And Now We Cannot Ignore The Fact
That Coronavirus
Has Lifted A Veil Of Sorts
Has Exposed The Underbelly Of Our So-Called Civilised Society

And You Know This,
Because Many Of You Have Been At The Forefront Of Efforts To Heal The Wounds,
To Feed The Hungry,
Minister To The Dying.

You Recall The Fifteen Minute Funerals And Fifty-Deep Food Bank Queues.
You Creatively Rallied,
Inventively Rose To The Challenge, Rode The Visceral Roller Coaster Whilst Acting As The Anchor
For Those Whose Souls You Care For. And Maybe, When You Think
About Your Ordination Vows And Those We Now Call Heroes, You Wonder
Am I Still Worthy
And Maybe You Whisper
But I Am Broken Too …

Thea Bowman A Black American Catholic Sister Said
“Perhaps Suffering Stops Us In Our Tracks
And Forces Us To Confront
What Is Real Within Ourselves
And Our Environment”.

And What Is Real Is That Inequality Is Rife In Our Society
Although Apparently Institutional Racism Is Not.
Humility Is Profanity –
Did ‘Humbly Serve’
Take A Swerve To Become A Humblebrag
Did It Not Happen If We Don’t Tweet About It?
Just Asking

And You Cannot Stop Asking

The Challenging Questions
Speaking Truth To Power
Choosing Irenical Not Polemical

Witnessing In Weakness, To Show God’s Completeness

Because The Gospel Is Challenging
And Oscar Romero Reminded Us
That The Gospel Which Doesn’t Touch The Sin
Of The Society In Which It Is Being Proclaimed
Is No Gospel At All!

And As Much As We May Seek Solace
In The Solidarity Of The Shaken
You Know That Your Public Anointing
May Not Quell Your Private Fears

Can You Be Afflicted But Remain Affirmed?

You Can

Because That Challenging Gospel
Shines Even Brighter
Is Proclaimed Even Louder
When The Vessel
Is Broken.

Because Then The World Knows

It Is God’s Power At Work, Not Our Own.

I Am Reminded Of The Japanese Pottery Called Kintsugi –
Pottery Which, When Broken Is Repaired With Gold
In The Seams Of The Cracks
Finding Beauty In Its Imperfection

Fragility Does Not Defy Our Faith

And If We Are Clay Jars,
Surely It Is Through Our Cracks
Repaired By The Golden Light Of The Gospel
That Witnesses You Are God’s Greatest
Because You Are The Least
The Broken & The Blessed,
The Exhausted & The Exhilarated
Used For His Glory.

And Even If You Do Ask For Whom The Bell Tolls
Let It Be As A Reminder
That Your Life Is A Witness To Others
Of God’s Grace And Mercy

And As You Renew Your Vows
All The Traits Valued
By The Hebrews, The Greeks, The Romans
Light, Truth
Knowledge, Wisdom
Glory And Achievement
And Can Be Found In Christ
And Christ Is Found In You.

As I End,
Be Wrapped In God’s Most Excellent Love
The Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Come On, How Can I Not Quote A Charles Wesley Hymn!

Continue To Be Changed From Glory Into Glory
Till In Heaven You Take Your Place
And From Wesley To Stormzy
Be Blinded By God’s Grace
Stay Prayed Up, And Get The Job Done.

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