john davies
notes from a small curate

updated regularly
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Matthew 11 - Commitment

    Good Shepherd 3/7/2005 (Communion Service)

    Romans 7.15-25a, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

    This sermon was preached during a service including one longstanding church member's Reception into the Communion of the Church of England [1]

    (Show off whistle from yesterday's Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh) [2]

    Yesterday's Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh - a long, long coach journey but wonderful to see those thousands celebrating their faith in a God of justice, especially the children and young people, growing in their sense of faith in a God who more than anything else wants to bring good news to the poor...

    I like to think of faith as a journey. We are all on a journey; we're all on our way with God.

    New Archbishop of York John Sentamu. What a journey he has been on. He was a young lawyer in the troubled African nation of Uganda during the brutal regime of Idi Amin. Many public figures opposed to Amin were being assassinated. Sentamu's friend the Archbishop Janani Luwum, was one of the targets, and Sentamu vowed, before God, "If you kill my friend, I will take his place."

    Though he didn't know how that could possibly happen, over thirty years later, that has happened in the most unlikely way. John Sentamu had to flee Uganda for his own life, came to Britain and began to study theology, eventually training for ordination at Ridley Hall, and his remarkable journey has seen him serve in parishes in London, as Bishop of Stepney and Bishop of Birmingham, and now as Archbishop of York.

    What a journey he has been on - this former refugee who has been chosen by God to lead the English church; this African who is placed alongside a Welshman, Rowan Williams, the first time in history two non-English people have held those positions; this 56 year-old who like so many African children was so weak and frail at birth he was not expected to survive, and was baptised in hospital as an emergency just in case he died.

    He traces it all back to the visit of a missionary to his school. "One day, when I was ten years old, a missionary came to our school, and said that the greatest thing you could do was to completely commit your life to Christ. He said: ŒWhen you do that, you will never be disappointed,'" He did just that, and was immediately aware of an overwhelming sense of love. He's been telling other people about the love of God for the past 46 years now.

    What a journey he has been on. What a tremendous sign his appointment is that the church is not one to go along with the Œdead' rules of society but rather with the life-giving Spirit of God's grace. What a lovely thing that those who commit themselves to God - whatever their struggles in life - will always be aware of God's overwhelming love for them.

    One of the things I like about the Church of England in particular is that membership of it is based not on severe, exclusive rules but on grace...

    We've all been on different journeys of faith to get here today. (Describe mine, Baptist background including adult confirmation prior to selection conference; outline Ann's RC background and over 30 years of involvement and service in the C of E)

    There comes a time in our lives - and this may happen more than once, from time to time - when we feel God's grace in a new way and we want to take a new step of faith, or make a statement of commitment to God, in response to God's grace.

    Depending on what has gone before us in our journey of faith, we in the C of E can do this in various ways - baptism, adult baptism, first communion, confirmation, or if we have come into the C of E having already been through these things or their equivalents in another church we can be received into the Communion of the C of E.

    This is what Ann has chosen to do today, and we ask God's blessing on her for wanting to make this statement of faith and renewed commitment to God - and to us...

    But what about you and me?

    This occasion gives us all the opportunity to consider, before God, our commitment to God and God's church. Do we want to take the opportunity to tell God today, I'm committed to you, I'm committed to your people?

    Jesus says, this generation is like children taunting each other in the street, accusing each other without grace or mercy. But you know another way - you know the grace and mercy of God in your life and you may want to celebrate that today by committing yourself afresh to God, in quiet thanksgiving. Reminding God, and yourself, just where you are on your journey, offering God your hopes for where that journey might lead you next.

    And Jesus says, come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy; I will give you rest... my yoke is easy to bear, my load is light. You might want to cast your cares on Jesus today and recommit yourself to travelling life's road with him, the pack on your back all the lighter for his presence with you.


    [1] The service was based on the Reception into the Communion of the Church of England at the Order for Celebration of Holy Communion including provision in the Absence of the Bishop, downloaded from Church of England liturgy website
    [2] Make Poverty History campaign website