SERMON BY THE VICAR
Readings: Exodus 12:1-14, Romans 13:8-end, Matt 18:15-20
In the reading from Exodus, which reads like a cookery lesson, we see the origins of Passover. One of the key phrases to understand the meaning of Passover is to eat the lamb “with loins girded” and “ hurriedly”. My English upbringing always told me that eating too quickly was a sign of being greedy, but this is different. The whole concept of Passover is being ready for action, and being ready to travel light. And in order to travel light, people need to be able to rely on others for safety and all the things travellers need – food, shelter, and a map. The other thing to say about the Passover narrative right from the beginning is that Passover is used by liberation theologians to describe an image of freedom from slavery – in this case slavery in Egypt. But one person’s liberation is often another person’s enslavement. Talk to any Palestinian about the Exodus imagery and it is of course an image of enslavement and military occupation for them, especially when the Zionist State of Israel is wrongfully equated with biblical Israel. There is of course no connection. But back to the themes of Passover – travelling light and connecting with companions. These two themes have defined for me on a personal level, my sabbatical experience – and I am looking forward to the continuation of it from the end of this week. I think these two images may help, so I’m going to use them, together with a contemporary piece of music to illustrate them.
First of all travelling Light. The same sense of the one needful thing that we find in the Exodus reading is also in the Letter to the Romans, which we just heard. Paul writes “ Now is the time to wake out of sleep – and “ salvation is nearer to us now than when we first became believers.” Travelling light takes different and related forms - Packing a small back pack for two months is a very salutary and liberating experience, which helps the traveller realise that most of the stuff we think we need to carry with us, we don’t actually need. If you have access to water, all you need is one change of clothes. Take a cassock with you too – there’s nothing especially clerical about cassocks, and they hide a multitude of sins. If the physical travelling light is accompanied by the ditching of emotional, spiritual, and psychological baggage, then the traveller feels he has grown metaphorical and physical wings and can soar. I am speaking now about the pilgrim or the traveller who has chosen to do this thing, and I realise that it is a different experience for those who have lost everything in a material sense overnight. Uppermost in all our minds now are the millions from Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and other war zones who have lost everything and now rely on the second quality of which I am speaking – connecting with companions.
Connecting with Companions is essential for the pilgrim and the one who is travelling light. The reality of mutual reliance is brought home by travelling in this state. I could not have done the journey I did and am about to continue without the sometimes overwhelming generosity of others, often strangers. That’s one of the reasons I have spent a lot of time with monks and nuns because they not only know this instinctively, but they also live it. It is this principle which underlies all Christian giving – the reality of our connectedness. This is expressed in the Church through our giving to the Common Fund, through which we support the mission of the church across London and nationally, often in places which could never afford to have a church presence. In this I thank God for the generosity already shown, and join with everyone in prayerfully reviewing what I give to see if I can give more. The reality of our connectedness is also expressed through immediate response to neighbours in need, especially those who have fled from violence and brutality and depend on us for what they need at the moment. At the end of this service we will be hearing from three people who are helping us to connect with our companions in a real way right now – Anthea on Stewardship and Common Fund, Joe on Christians in Iraq, and Dom on Ukraine. None of these places are far away from us, and we are already intimately connected with all through the reality of the sacramental unity we already enjoy through our common baptism. The other thing, finally, to say about connecting with companions is that giving is not a one way street. The reality is giving and receiving is two way traffic, and through giving gladly and with a generous heart, we receive far more – good measure pressed down shaken together, and running over.
My themes of travelling light, travelling purposefully, ditching baggage and connecting with others comes, for me, powerfully through this song from Nico and Vince – the images in this clip are from Botswana.
In summary, when we live our faith like this, we are set free from slavery and we are brought into the Gospel Kingdom. If you’re the type of person who needs a biblical hook for this, you find it in the Gospel set for today – “if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my father in heaven.” But if Bible doesn’t do it for you, and you relate more through contemporary culture, then the language of texting probably sums up what I want to say about travelling light and connecting with companions – and that’s YOLO . You Only Live Once.