Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Peace offering?

I've been mostly silent on here in recent days, and still don't have much to say here. So in lieu of my usual posts, here's the sermon I preached in Seabury's chapel yesterday - more or less as I actually preached it:

Last week after Matriculation, a few of us ended up in the chapel looking at the space, and talking about it. And one of the things that came up for me as we talked was the importance of where I sit in this chapel. I need to be able to see things to give them my full attention a lot of the time, and it turns out there are only about five seats in this chapel where I can reliably see the pulpit, the crossing, the presider’s seat, and the altar. So I sit in one of those. But it would actually be important for me to sit on that side of the chapel even if sight lines weren’t such a problem for me, because it matters to me that I sit on the side of the theologians.

Now, that’s partly a positive statement, in that I think of myself much more readily as a theologian than as a missionary, something I’m sure is shocking to many of you. But it’s the flip side, the negative of that statement, that really makes it so important to me. It’s less a matter of needing to sit with the theologians than it is of needing to sit facing the missionaries. I’m in very little danger of forgetting about the theologians, or of forgetting that doing theology is part of my call. If I’m going to forget something, I’m going to forget that I’m also called to mission. Even when I remember, I often feel as though when Jesus says “You also are to testify,” he can’t possibly mean me - he means you all. So as I worship in this chapel, I need to look up and remember both how much the church needs its missionaries, and that I too have a part in God’s mission. I may be theological in my reasons for why mission is so important, but my theology becomes incomplete, maybe even false, when I neglect the missional elements.

I think this is part of the church’s message to all of us on this particular feast, the feast of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer. By lumping these three bishops together, the church reminds us not only that they knew each other, but that we don’t get one without the others. Cranmer was a scholar and theologian who more or less had to be pulled into the public life. Latimer railed against clergy who stayed safely in their studies and universities and never preached the gospel. The whole calendar of saints operates this way, to a certain extent. The Church put Ridley on the calendar for his reforming zeal in tearing out images and altars – but in only a few weeks, we’ll celebrate the feast of John of Damascus, whose Defense of Holy Images helped ensure that icons and liturgical art would have a place in the Church. And the church tells us that they’re a package deal. Not Cranmer, or Latimer, or Ridley; not liturgy or preaching or theology; but all of these together, all at once.

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