Sermon 13 December 2015 Advent 3
We have just heard from St Luke that John the Baptist called his audience a brood of vipers. We wouldn’t use language like that today, or at least the Church of England wouldn’t! Calling people vipers - well, it’s a bit rude, isn’t it? According to Matthew, John addresses this to the scribes and Pharisees but in Luke’s version it’s addressed to everybody who has come along to hear John and receive baptism. Poor things – they were only trying their best.
say, well that was another culture and that’s how people were then and they
would have taken it on the chin.
John says: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none and whoever has food must do likewise…”. Sister Rita: “I believe we must help one another in this life. … Take the shirt off your back and give it to somebody. That’s where I come from”.
John’s message was for the rich and powerful too – enough to attract the wrath of Herod. Sister Rita: (I quote from the article) “The people with money, the well-heeled [are the worst culprits] – not everyone but some …. if they were suddenly to turn up here – Chancellor George Osborne’s Cheshire constituency, is only a few miles down the road – they’d be looking down their noses and saying to people ‘get up and get a job’. However, the jobs aren’t there”.
I encourage them as well but I don’t let them off lightly”.
where do these touches of similarity to John the Baptist come from?
This leads us on to the question of imitation. Imitation of Christ is an important part of the Christian message – it’s there in the gospels and it’s there in Thomas a Kempis’s book. Today, though, we have a real problem with imitation, because many Christians think it’s enough. It isn’t. Imitation of Christ or of John the Baptist or the Saints is a foothill to something else and that something else is being in Christ, being in him as he is in the Father. Imitation is important but is never enough. All imitation might mean is that we admire things about Christ and seek to reproduce them from our own resources. Something fundamental is missing. That is something, or someone, who through a living relationship is able to transform us and open up boundless resources of grace.
Christianity seems a lot of the time to operate on the basis of imitation.
Antony Grant CR