ONE, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church…

A sermon preached at Cathays Methodist Church, Cardiff on Sunday 19th October 2014 for One World Week (We had just watched Chicken a la Carte, and Landfill Orchestra)

Text: Luke 4:16 the Nazareth Manifesto

In our world of Great British Bake Off,

Antiques Roadshow,

Come Dine With Me, and so many others –

We know that we are in an awful way, married to a consumer culture. We don’t even have to see people to buy our food or petrol!

When you have food, money and freedom in abundance unfortunately what seems to often happen is that it is wasted, used up, spent in the wrong way.

And we see this obsession with the self in all the places we look – we want to grade things, and value things, and make sure we are getting our fair share of all life’s goodness.

No matter what the cost might be to someone else, and unfortunately so often we see adverts on TV, or hear stories on the Radio that fool us into thinking that these things – poverty, injustice, oppression, slavery are things that happen a long way away from here.

Poverty, injustice, oppression, slavery – these concern us all, because if one person suffers we are all less human, for their suffering.

And in our world – images like what we have just seen, should not exist anymore. Nor should they have ever existed.

Their hunger is our hunger, there poverty is our poverty, their oppression is our oppression.

We are not free until all are free, nor are we truly fed until all are fed.

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”

 

Those words from what is commonly called the Nazareth Manifesto – sees Jesus setting the agenda.

Of his own ministry.

Of the ministry of the apostles.

Of the church’s ministry.

The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me –

To bring good news to the poor.

 

To proclaim release to captives.

 

Recovery of sight to the blind.

 

To let the oppressed go free.

 

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

I have to confess in the Church year, it can often seem as though every Sunday in the Church calendar is a special Sunday for some cause or effort and I don’t often take much notice if I’m honest. But as I’ve been reflecting on One World Week, I’ve been thinking on what it actually means to be ONE.

We say, in one of the Creeds we believe in One God and in One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

One God.

One Church.

One True Faith.

To me, being ‘one’ speaks of unity, togetherness, a bond, connection, a single unit.

Unity, togetherness, oneness – none of this is new.

We find unity, community, fellowship and togetherness in the very heart of God – as we heard in Genesis.

God in community – the three persons of the Trinity, exampling for us the necessity of life together as human beings.

But not just that.

Human beings who are created – “in the image of God”.

Precious. Unique. Of Value.

So I must see in you, some reflection of myself.

I must see in you, some reflection of God.

If I forget, for one moment that we are both made in the image of God, I’m on really dodgy territory. Because not only have I forgotten your value and preciousness, but I have forgotten my own.

Did anyone hear about the paramedics who left a dead body beside bins so that they could finish their shift on time….you see what happens when we forget out common humanity.

I actually went on the One World Week website to see how they actually defined it’s purpose and this is what it said:

One World Week is an annual opportunity for people from diverse backgrounds to come together to learn about global justice, to spread that learning and to use it to take action for justice locally and globally, by:

  • Working together in caring for the earth and its resources
  • Taking action for justice, equality, peace and fullness of life for all
  • Building relationships of mutual respect that cross boundaries

Running local events that celebrate the diversity of cultures in our communities.

 

So, in a nutshell you might say that One World Week is about being more Christlike. About being better human beings, about actually giving a damn about our world and its resources, about the poor, about the oppressed, about those who are not seen as equal.

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I’ve said before in other places, but I’ll say it again – that unfortunately the Church is the one place where discrimination and injustice and inequality is often accepted in today’s world.

And actually most of the signs outside of our churches should really say ‘Come as you are, for the first five visits’.

Because we don’t mind difference, but we don’t want it to disrupt us.

We welcome the young: but we think they should know their place.

We welcome parents: so long as their babies don’t cry loudly.

We welcome the divorced: but we’re not completely sure.

The LGBT community: Well, yes, but still not fully.

The immigrants: You’re welcome too, but really we want you to behave just like us.

Pray like us, sing like us, think like us, dress like us, turn up on time…and not get any big ideas.

And today, the Church is divided into – inclusive Church, and Diverse Church, Affirming Catholics, Forward in Faith, Methodist Sacramental Fellowship and Methodist Evangelicals Together – all labels which have more to do with us than they do with God.

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The first thing is that we are One.

The final thing is that we are Apostolic.

From our oneness, comes our ability for proper and empowered mission.

From our oneness, comes our ability to take the Gospel into the world, because we are exampling it’s unifying power in our own lives.

Sometimes it feels as though as Christians, we are so concerned about saving ourselves in the forms of our different denominations and individual churches that we have forgotten the needs of those around and amongst us.

And that is, I feel, something that God would say is a much more pressing issue than anything else we might be taken up with.

Because a Church that is failing to be ONE and HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC, is only giving the world more reason to be divided, and broken, and against itself.

Because in its being ONE it speaks of Christ.

In it’s being HOLY it speaks of Christ.

In it’s being CATHOLIC (Meaning Universal) it speaks of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

In it’s being APOSTOLIC it speaks to the whole of creation.

So in short, what I’m trying to say is – the development of One World, might start with us – right here, at Cathays this morning.

I’m saying that Christ’s manifesto is OUR manifesto.

I’m saying that the Oneness and Holiness and Catholicity and Apostolic mission of the Church begins and continues with us, in us, through us. Here and now.

I’m saying that the One World Week vision – is a vision of the kind of world Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ came to bring and that all the small and little ways in which we here this morning might not be completely united, doesn’t make us one, nor does it make us holy.

The Church should be an example of how people can work together, to bring about Good.

The Church should be an example of how evil can be overcome.

The Church should be an example of justice and equality and freedom.

The message we heard from Genesis is beautiful.

The Nazareth manifesto is beautiful.

You all here this morning are beautiful.

Our Gospel is beautiful.

And we are called to make our world a more beautiful place by taking the heart of the Gospel into our broken and messy world.

The heart of the Gospel message is about everyone having a voice, everyone having worth, everyone having a seat at Christ’s table.

It’s about bringing people together – not turning them away.

It’s about being good to the earth and those who cannot repay us.

And the hungry and the oppressed and the poor may well be in our workplaces and our communities and our churches.

Our problem today, is that unless it affects us directly, it’s simply not our problem.

We live in a individualistic society, where things belong to me, and I worked for them, and I deserve them, and it’s my country, my job, my life, my body…I can do what ever the hell I like with it.

But the decisions we make as individuals impact the rest of humanity, from the smallest decisions to the larger ones – the things we do in secret and the things we do publicly – they have an effect on our human community.

Jesus Christ came that people might have life in all its fullness.

He came and established a church, a movement of people that is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Not a Church that stays in the comfortable places.

Not a Church that remains silent about the evils of its days.

Not a Church that joins the side of the oppressor, even in small ways.

But a Church that would stand up to the oppressor.

A Church that would speak for those who had no voice.

A Church that would put its neck on the line for justice.

And a Church that loved people into the fullness of life.

Maybe, you know, perhaps it’s my youthful naivety and ignorance that tricks me into believing that the world and the church can be better than they are, but I’m not prepared to give up just yet.

This One World Week, my challenge to us is to live differently – to think about what we can do to break chains and to make change in our local situations.

My challenge to us is simply for us to be more Christlike – but to have a broader understanding of what being Christlike means, and what that might look like, and how that might be lived out in your life.

World hunger and poverty, and injustice won’t end by one petition, or by an app, or just by fundraising – ultimately – it can only be overcome by the deep opening up of people’s hearts to the common thread of humanity that, through God, binds us all together.

So you might say that One World Week, is really back to basics Sunday – back to the apostles – back to Christ – back to Genesis.

May we bring to all, a justice animated by wisdom, by righteous anger and by fervent love.

For the Spirit of the Lord has anointed us

To bring good news to the poor.

 

To proclaim release to captives.

 

Recovery of sight to the blind.

 

To let the oppressed go free.

 

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. Amen.

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