Revd Joachim Foot's Sermon for Trinity 19 Sunday 18th October 2020

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:

It is extraordinary how the world has been turned upside down in the last few months. As I was reading over the Gospel in preparation for today, I realised just how potty the current age we are living in has become. I was struck by Christ rather blithely accepting a dinner invitation. We live in an age where something as simple as accepting a dinner invitation has become a decidedly risky experience. Do we dare to accept? Do we dare to refuse? We find ourselves constantly trying to gauge how others will react. Are they covid zealots set to publicly denounce us should we fail to follow the rules? Even if the rules are increasingly too complicated to be understood and change so often we struggle to keep up. Or are they perhaps so relaxed that an encounter with them feels like a ‘super-spreader’ event waiting to happen? Our view of relationships has been significantly altered by this. Reactions can seem surprising as people who we thought would react, well more like ourselves, turn out to have very different perceptions of risk from us, and we find ourselves struggling to understand people we thought we knew well as we realise we can or cannot trust them with our own health. This will surely have a long-lasting effects on our relationships as we redrawn our relationships based on risk. And there, today we have Christ, walking into a stranger’s house without a care in the world.

The Pharisee reacts to Christ’s blitheness by pulling him up on his lack of hand-washing – that sounds very familiar doesn’t it? Look at our doors, and the entrances of so many other places and you will see the orders to sanitise before entry. When you don’t see the hand-sanitiser, or worse still you touch it and find it empty, the establishment you’re entering suddenly feels like a distinctly dangerous place to be.

Christ pulls up the Pharisee, as he should pull us all up: ‘You clean the outside’ Christ calls,  ‘You clean the outside’ ‘while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness.’ We can sanitise our hands, we can put on our masks, we can even put on a visor and gloves if we really want to, and then we might, we might, be safe from covid, but are our souls festering with uncleanliness all the while?

The first thing we need do, is not enslave ourselves to the current age. I see and hear so much fear, so much self-righteous rubbish, a church too focused on the cares of this age, of PPE, social distancing, risk assessments, no singing in church etc etc, that I worry we are losing our very souls in the process. Our first act, our first act must not be to protect our bodies, but to guard our souls. We need to clean the inside and not the outside.

‘Did not he who made the outside make the inside too?’

 

Right at the start of the Gospels, Christ’s message is simple ‘repent and believe in the good news’. We can be as clean as we like on the outside, dripping in hand-sanitiser etc, etc but it makes no difference to our souls. We need to strive for inner purity, for the cleanliness of our hearts that comes from God through Christ alone, without that we are nothing. We can protect ourselves from covid and be dead inside.

The church must, I think, more than ever offer a message of hope, hope in Christ our saviour, a hope beyond covid, beyond lockdowns and restrictions etc etc, and instead hope in our salvation won for us on the cross.

So we must repent, and seek reconciliation first. We must meet with Christ in broken bread and wine outpoured that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body and our souls washed through his most precious blood that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us. That is our first act, that needs to come before everything else. Christ is our strength, our shield and our redeemer, our PPE if you must, and we need take comfort in him alone, because PPE and hand sanitiser will not save us, only Christ will save us and so we must turn to him, repent and be reconciled.

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit


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