Sermon preached by Archdeacon Trevor Harrison at the Midnight Mass of the Nativity 25 December 2019 It’s a marvellous, wonderful,... read more
I am aware of transition as we gather here this morning – farewelling and thanking Dean Jamie and Suzy for their leadership here in recent years, and awaiting the arrival of Dean Peter and Gay. Also worshipping here in temporary quarters as the refurbishing of our beloved St Mary’s takes place. I am mindful of the comforting words of Isaiah (43.19): Behold, I am doing a new thing; I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. God is with us on this journey of change.
Our daughter Jo Randerson, actor and writer, is the solo performer in her play Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong. The title, of course, is from 1 Corinthians 13.1: If I have not love I am but a banging cymbal or a clanging gong. In the play Jo presents as an angry young woman, a member of the Bastardos family, of whom there are not many left because they have died in the battles ‘fighting for the little ones’.
There is a theme here of Costly Love that links with our Gospel reading from John 12.1-8. Here Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus has just raised from the dead, kneels at Jesus’ feet and pours a jar of expensive oil over his feet, and dries them with her hair. Her penitence and devotion are woven through this costly act of outpouring love.
Judas meanwhile stands grumbling about such a waste of money. ‘Why wasn’t the ointment sold and the proceeds given to the poor?’ Jesus’ rebuke with the words ‘The poor you always have’ is not a statement that care for the poor is unimportant. It is not an either/or to love Jesus or care for the poor. The latter proceeds from the former: it is because of God’s abundant love for us that we in turn love God and our neighbour.
And then note Jesus’ significant words: ‘she has done this for my burial’. His forthcoming suffering, death and burial was at hand: the costliness of true love would be clearly seen.
In Jo’s play there is a scene where she is fighting side by side with a man, sticking it to the big guys as they fight for the little ones. They form a camaraderie but he disappears and only some years later does she see him again. She runs to greet him but he is different. He is dressed in a nice suit with collar and tie, and makes no response. His eyes were dead, the passion had gone.
Costly love keeps on keeping on. A quote I read says You can give without loving (as Judas grudgingly did) but you cannot love without giving (as Mary did).
There are times in life when we feel faith is all too much, that it is hopeless, we are suffering our own pain, the task is too big, the church is under attack from the uninformed masses, and the temptation to give up is strong. These are times when we call on God, our friends and the faith community to help us not to give up, and not allow the passion to die within us.
In Paul’s words (Phil. 3.14) ‘I press on to win the prize which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life which is above’.
Bishop Randerson has written a number of books including his latest: Slipping the Moorings: a Memoir Weaving Faith with Justice, Ethics and Community. To get in touch with him to purchase a copy of his book email firstname.lastname@example.org