LOW SUNDAY SERMON IN THE COMMUNITY CHURCH: 19 APRIL 2009.

Acts 4: 32-35.               1 John 1: 1:1 – 2:2.                     John 20: 19-31. 

St John says that he has written his gospel that we may believe, or even know, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we may have life in his name.  The other readings for this Sunday tell us something about what life in his name consists in. St John, in his first letter, tells us that it consists in fellowship with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

This is what he calls “walking in the light”, the light of Christ represented in the church by the pascal candle, lit from the new fire on Easter Day, the light of Christ in our hearts.  To walk in the light must mean having our life centred on him and doing his will. This is our baptismal vocation.

And “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” This is what we see in the lesson we had for Mattins. St Luke tells us that “the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one said that any of the things he possessed was his own but they had everything in common“ (Acts 4:35). After our Lord’s resurrection they experienced a wonderful unity. 

Unfortunately it didn’t last. As you will remember, the next incident which St Luke records is about Ananias and his wife Sapphira who sold a piece of property and kept back some of the proceeds. St Peter judged them harshly. He accused them of lying to the Holy Spirit. I don’t suppose they meant to do that but they were not walking in the light. No doubt they hoped that Jesus was the Christ but suppose he wasn’t, what would happen to them? They had better keep back some of the money just in case. They were self centred instead of Christ centred. They were walking in darkness.

One can’t help wondering about St Peter. When he judged them harshly was he altogether walking in the light? For I don’t think Jesus would have condemned them like that. “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus specialised in loving sinners; not only penitent sinners but all sinners. He came to call sinners to repentance. “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” the Scribes and Pharisees said. “Neither do I condemn you,” he said to the woman taken in adultery. “Go and sin no more.”

Our brother Martin Jarrett-Kerr once wrote: “An elderly great-aunt of mine used not to like sermons on the subject of ‘sin’. Returning from church one day she is said to have remarked to one of her nieces, ’Sins? Sins? I haven’t got any sins. Only, your Uncle annoys me sometimes’.” (Our trespasses, SCM 1948, p 7.) 

What about us? Are we like this Martin’s great-aunt? Jesus loves us. There is no doubt about that but are we loving him with all our heart and soul and strength? The Christian life means having our lives centred on him. Our baptismal vocation is to follow him. Our monastic vocation is just one way of doing this. In one of his retreat addresses (Partnership with Christ, Liturgical Press, 2008) Fr Boylan says, “The whole of monastic life is making Christ the centre of our lives instead of ourselves. This is the purpose of obedience, mortification and prayer: to learn how to love by denying ourselves and making Christ our all. This is conversion of life and conversion of life doesn’t happen all at once.”

So, to go back to St John’s letter: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – so that we may have life in his name, fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, fellowship with one another. That is God’s purpose – to unite us with himself and with one another in Christ. Christ, the risen Christ, Christ the light of the world is all we have, all we live for. To him be glory for evermore.  Amen.          

Timothy Stanton CR