“Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation;
For in him all things in heaven and earth were created,
things visible and invisible.” Colossians 1.15 – 20
During this past week I have been given, like most of you, the parish profile survey asking me, “What are the five most important things about Saint Andrew’s that makes it my church of choice in Deal?” This led me to ponder on two other questions: What is the Church? and why do I go?
The second question maybe answered by the story of the son who did not want to get out of bed to go to school and when he asked his mother why he had to, was firmly told him ”You have to go because you are the headmaster.”
I searched my bookshelves for Tim Radcliffe’s book “Why go to Church?” and it has gone missing, so I opened his book which I have got, called, “What is the point of being a Christian?” In the chapter entitled ,”Citizens of the kingdom” he defines the Church as, “The sacrament of the unity of humanity in Christ.” But we might well ask what does that mean? We know from our confirmation lessons that a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. It is the outward expression of our Christening, of our being in Christ. So do you find this the most important of your reasons for being here this morning?
We are the person that we are, because of the people and places we have encountered on our pilgrimage of life. People and places are what Cardinal Basil Hume called the pegs upon which we hang our lives, even our faith. In that way we are all different, unique even. First of these pegs is our parents, then family, followed by school, work, college, clubs, societies, sports, politics and always friends. We go to a club or other activity to get out and meet people, to make friends, have a good time, to learn a new craft or game; namely, to enrich our lives or to relieve the boredom of mundane days.
Now, is it any different from when we choose whether to come to church or not? Whether we choose to come here rather than to Saint George’s or Saint Leonard’s or the Methodists, the Baptists, the Quakers or the Pentecostalists?
Do I come to Saint Andrew’s because it is the nearest church, it is my parish church and I should attend the church where I live? Do I continue to come because it is my sort of thing, the people are friendly and the priests are helpful? Do you come because you like the music, you like to help out and there are plenty of jobs and it fills up a Sunday morning. Are they different reasons from my choice to go to say the golf club, the pub, the gym, the theatre or out with friends for a meal?
In his book Dom Timothy quotes Virginia Woolf who said that to be her true self she must rid herself of unreal loyalties to nationality, religion, college, school, family, gender and those that spring from them. She was wrong because we cannot as believers in a Christian catholic faith because to be whole is to be catholic. Who we are is made up by those we identify with and that is all creation, all who are made in God’s image.
So do we find that wholeness and sense of belonging by being the Church rather than just choosing to be at church?
Today’s readings take us back to basics, to the beginning of the Creed that we shall in a minute profess:
We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and all that is seen and unseen.
This morning’s reading from Proverbs starts:
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts long ago.
The Gospel is also about the beginning and the nature of all things; the Word and that Word became flesh and dwelt among us
The letter to the Colossians states emphatically:
He i.e. Jesus himself is before all things and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body the Church.
Our reasons as to why we choose to be here are not necessarily wrong. No they are important to each of us in different ways. But what is important to us all is that the Church is the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ and when we come together, when we gather, we make Church. We make Jesus present in a special way. We become his body which exists for us and we continue to make him present for those outside of the Church, as much as for ourselves. As William Temple said it is the only society that exists for those outside it and our priority as the Church must be the needs of the most vulnerable of God’s world.
The pattern of the Church in Acts 2.42 is that we should gather to hear the teaching, to share in the fellowship, to break bread and to offer prayers to the Father of us all through Christ.
This morning, we together, make visible the sacramental presence of Christ to take that presence out to God’s world to make it whole. That is the true meaning of being the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ.
Is that why you choose be here?