4 The Church in the City
1 Gathering – On the way
The gathering of the people of God brings judgment. It is a public and political event. When the nation receives this judgment its long term is secured. The Church is the unchanging presence around which the city gathers and on which society is founded. And the Church constantly travels through the city as pilgrims and missioners to it. 1. The people on the way Whenever Christians walk through their society and their city they are led by their Lord. The procession in which the Lord leads his people is described by psalm 68: O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, The earth shook at the presence of God, the Lord of Sinai. The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, even thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them, the Lord of Sinai in holy power. So the Christian people go in procession, through the world and through the city. It sings: Come Christians follow where the captain trod, the king victorious, Christ the Son of God... Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore his sacred name. And the Christian people stand in the middle of the city. They remain there, the one constant presence. The city swirls around them, and sometimes rages against them. Christians have been present in this city of London since the first century. Though the Church disappeared from our records as pagan invasions, but the faith returned under Augustine of Canterbury in the sixth century. Christians have stood their ground, sung in this city and prayed for it for the fourteen hundred years since then. The Christians walk and they stand and they sing. 2. The well-ordered people and their apostle We walk and we stand in good company. Christians are given to us to accompany us. In Christ we are now to be shaped and moulded by the Church. Amongst the identifiable, institutional Church there are people with the spiritual authority to lead us. They are the apostles of the contemporary Church. They have the authority to make Christians of us. Being under the 92
right authority is good for us, and it is a fundamental part of the good news of Jesus Christ. Specific leaders are given to us by our Lord, to train, discipline, form and disciple us. He and his discipline is good news, central to the gospel and to our salvation. The whole Church, the whole historical tradition and worldwide catholicity that is the body of Christ is here for us. But the Body of Christ is not a merely theoretical or amorphous authority that we choose to receive if we want to, that we may choose the acceptable and discard the unacceptable parts of. It is a specific sets of authorities, and indeed specific persons with authority who are here for us. One person is the authority of the Church here and now for us. He was chosen, by Church, for us. He is this Church in one convenient package, the whole congregation in miniature. Our pastor is given to us, by the Church. we did not choose him, but the Church choose him for us. The Church provides us with many people with the authority to teach us. But it also provides us with this authority represented by one person, whom you can talk to and present your complaints to. Let us call this figure the bishop. 3. The bishop and the cathedral The bishop is a identifiable figure. But he is also never on his own. Around him the people gathered and the eucharist is celebrated. He represents the presence of the whole company of bishops, which is to say, the assembly of the whole Church. The bishop is the communion of saints and the catholicity of the Church in one person. He is our messenger from apostles past, and it is his job to pour all the saints, offices and gifts and the Spirit into us. He fetches for us the resources that previous generations have provided for us. He is chief pastor who shows ‘the shepherd’s love…to minister discipline but with compassion.’ He is responsible to God for us, and he will be held to account for us and for the condition of the whole Church of which we are part. A bishop is a member of the assembly of the whole church, drawn from every corner of the world. The bishop represents the whole history of the Church, all its apostles and doctors, to his congregation. In him the worldwide church makes itself present to each local congregation. If the bishop is present, the whole Church is present in each particular congregation, so that the whole geographic and historic catholicity of the Church is present in that particular part of the world. The seat of the bishop is the cathedral. In London this is St Paul’s Cathedral, dedicated, obviously, to the apostle Paul. The bishop has led the whole Church in its prayers for this city and, since London is the capital, for the whole country. The Church, the bishop and the cathedral stand fast. With the bishop, the Church stands in the city, and the city that looks to the Church will stand fast and not be swept away. Jerusalem is built as a city that is bound firmly together. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’ For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good (Psalm 122). 4. The monks and the abbey A mile upstream from the City of London there is a church dedicated to St Peter. It was built by Benedictine monks as their abbey church. An Abbey is
the church of a monastery, which is a community of Christians withdrawn from the world in order to dedicate themselves solely to singing the praises of God. This worship has a long-term effect which is particularly easy to see in the case of this church, which we now know as ‘Westminster Abbey’. The chief business of the Christians in a monastery is to sing the divine office, including all the psalms and Scripture. They do this around the clock, seven times in every twenty four hours. They are thoroughly immersed in the psalms, and so they familiar with every motivation and emotion experienced and expressed there by the people of God. The psalms teach them how to be glad, and how to lament, how to yearn for justice and how to become the selfdisciplined disciple who is content to wait for the Lord to provide that justice. From the psalms comes the self-discipline of the community that sings them. From the disciplined Christian life of the monastic community of the abbey comes all the good practices of self-discipline and self-control. These Christians were considered trustworthy because, having conspicuously given up their own individual interests, they had no material stake in the outcome of any issue. The entire way of life tells us that monks regard themselves as pilgrims here, and that theirs is a life on the way, and in this they make visible what is true of the Church as a whole. These monks made good listeners and gave good advice. They were able to suggest solutions and provide arbitration that can help bring a conflict to a peaceful settlement. The forgiveness that is extended to us by God enables a new-start for communities previously locked in conflict, and the community of the Church that points to this forgiveness of God, is good at enabling peace and reconciliation. The two sides to a dispute often found that they could recognise that the mediation of these advicegivers, and that their advice represented a workable solution that allowed disputes to be settled with dignity for both sides. Singing that liturgy, which involves singing and reading the Scriptures, and in particular the psalms, gives this community of Christians their wisdom. Their wisdom is obvious enough that people come to this community for advice. The Abbey’s community of monks gave advice, and resolved disputes and so dispensed justice for whoever came to them. This public service of offering arbitration and justice grew. The rulers of the people of this part of the country so valued the advice of the monks, that they built themselves a palace by the Abbey. They considered themselves protected by the holiness of that community, and in time English kings learned to consider themselves servants of God. The palace of these kings of England is still there. It is the Palace of Westminster, which we know as the Houses of Parliament, alongside which the neighbouring palace of Whitehall later appeared. Over the centuries the court of these kings grew into the organised government of their kingdom. Over this time, around the abbey and its worship grew all the apparatus of the united government and so this united kingdom grew into a united society and a single nation.
The king who first recognised this community of Christians, and re-built their Abbey, was Edward the Confessor. Edward was recognised by the church and the kingdom to have exercised the Christian confession in a way that held his kingdom together; his faith had enabled him to act as a good ruler, able to offer justice and resolution to the nation. His good rule, which prevented the country from tearing itself apart, was evidence of holiness, so his sainthood was recognised. Those Christians sang, and still sing now: Give the king your justice, O God May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. Long may he live! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long (Psalm 72) The fragile unity of the nation From the disciplined Christian life of the monastic community of the abbey comes all the good practices of self-discipline and self-control that makes the good judge who achieves reconciliation and sustains unity. The monks knew that justice is fundamental, that justice must be tempered by mercy and forgiveness, and that this requires interpretation and public explanation. Subsequent kings looked to Edward the Confessor as an example, and even came to his tomb in the hope that he would intercede for them for forgiveness for such bloodshed. The kings who came after him wanted to be close to him, in life and in death, so they were buried near to him in the hope that his saintliness would give them some protection. These kings who were particularly in awe of Edward and wanted to imitate him re-built the abbey in the form we see now. There is the seat of judgment… The Church sings: Give the king your justice, O God May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. (Psalm 72) ‘King’ is short-hand for any leader: that our leaders are democratically elected does not make them any the less kings. All kings have to provide their kingdoms with justice. In the course of providing justice they have to make some hard decisions. In the days before we learned humane imprisonment, they put to death those who threatened the peace and unity of the kingdom. Kings were well aware that they had blood on their hands. But they knew that the decision was either to execute their opponents or, if they gave their opponents to create civil war, they would have the blood of the wider population on their hands. Justice was tough. Since any king want to maintain his hold over every part of his kingdom and to raise revenue from it, he summons an assembly in which every part of the nation is represented: this is what parliament is. Any kingdom is always made up of different sections; each of which may believe that they owe nothing to any other section. So any kingdom may be prepared to start tearing itself apart, and drift apart into rival fiefdoms. But every political leader knows that that the unity and survival of the nation is always at stake, and that the integrity of our common life is always the basic issue, and civil conflict is our common enemy. But conflict can be worsened as much as reduced by its expression in parliament. Every political leader and parliamentary representative becomes aware of the possibility of polarising opinion, and creating division and civil
strife. They realise that if they do not moderate the language of their discussions when they come together, existing tensions may be exacerbated. Each member of parliament learns that they have has to act as a representative, not just of the people or party or interest group who voted for them or sponsored them, but for the whole country. This is why that assembly start its deliberations with public acknowledgement that they are all under an authority higher than themselves. Parliament starts the day with prayers. 5. Government gathers around the Abbey What is government? Government is public service. We have government because some people dedicate themselves to our service, and we recognise them and honour them for it, and give them the authority to continue to serve us. The government of the nation is that particular form of public service that continually clears away all the impediments to our own public generosity exercised in the many forms in which we serve one another. The government is not there to provide everything for us. Its job is just to reduce the obstacles to our serving and providing for one another. All government is dedicated to preserving the wholeness and integrity of the kingdom and the conditions in which everyone of us can act in the public service and so be citizens. All government starts as our own individual self-government. Those who govern themselves well are able to help other people to do the same. We recognise that what they do well for themselves they can also help others learn the rest Our personal self-government makes it possible for us to help others do so too, and self-govern flows over into public service, that is, the service that we give to people outside our immediate family. We call this ‘civil society’. This consists of all businesses, enterprises, sports clubs, youth clubs, educational, welfare and campaigning charities, trade unions, rotary clubs, the associations that promote education, art, nature, history and culture, sport and the whole range of amateur life. This public service creates a ‘civil society’ of groups and grass-roots activism. All these are forms of public service. The Church as the source of public service But one form of public service is more fundamental than any of these. This is marriage. Two consenting persons enter a public covenant to serve one another and those who can only be born through their coming together in this way – their own children. The public commitment of a man and a woman to that mutual service that will bring into being a family – that is the beginning of all society, and it is the one thing that ensures the continuation of society. Government only exists in order to serve to the continuation of society. The same public service becomes parish council and local and regional government. Government is that particular form of public service that holds the ring for all these others. The many associations that make up civil society do not exist because government gives them permission to; government exists because their service extends nationally and brings national government into being: they give it permission act in certain areas on their behalf. Government exists because some of these public-spirited people
dedicate themselves to holding the ring for all these forms of public initiative, enterprise and communal effort. Government is simply there to see that this open public space should be maintained for the next generation. The government therefore holds the interest of future generations as a guard over the expressions of the immediate interest of this present generation. The government stands as guardian of the long term. For this reason government is always able to benefit from the counsel of the Church, the community that expresses the voices of the communities of the past and the future and so represents the long term. And the Church prays for all the forms of service and selfgovernment that make up civil society, and which are served by national government. The Church prays: Eternal God, Give to the parliaments in these islands, and especially to our own Government, wisdom and skill, imagination and energy; give to the members of the European institutions vision, understanding and integrity, that all may live in peace and happiness, truth and prosperity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Good counsel comes from the community dedicated to the worship and service of God. To bring judgment is a generous and public-spirited thing to do. Parliament is an out-working of this readiness to seek good counsel and to benefit from it. All representatives, magistrates and civil servants are carrying out the office of bringing judgment and providing justice. All law and all the institutional arrangements of which our welfare state consists represents the case law, that is the accumulated experience and the decisions drawn from it, by generations of political representatives. It is an act of public service to sit in counsel or to be a representative: you can get things wrong, with momentous consequences for individuals, nation and yourself. You might well want to know how your predecessor in previous generations dealt with this responsibility and with all the issues of blame and guilt that come with it. You might well want to be reminded that judgment is a divine office, and pray for God's aid in it. Once a year the monarch comes to open Parliament. She leads a slow procession through Parliament that ends with an ascent to her throne, the place from which she gives judgment, which she does by reading out the programme of intended legislation. In this procession we are seeing an act of Christian worship. For the law-courts too the term begins with a service: twice a year high court judges go in procession, briefly visible to us as they cross the road between Abbey and Parliament. We pray: Almighty God, the fountain of all goodness, bless our Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth, and all who are in authority under her; that they may order all things in wisdom and equity, righteousness and peace, to the honour of your name, and the good of your Church and people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. The Church is the institution that points to the source of the unity and peace that makes this a unified society and one nation. Because this nation, and around this Abbey its rulers, have listened to the worshipping community and
received its teaching about justice and forgiveness, our history has been a slow and erratic movement from tribalism and violence to unity and peace. But this unity and peace will only last as long as the nation receives this justice and forgiveness of God. If it is ready to take this discipline it will continue as a nation. If it does not receive this justice and forgiveness, it will not have that justice or forgiveness to pass on, and the result will be that its unity and peace will unravel and this nation will meander back towards violence and tribalism again. Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the king's son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor (Psalm 72). 6. The public witness of the Church The community of Westminster Abbey sings the worship of God. It celebrates the eucharist and says or sings the office publicly every morning and evening. The worshipping community that do so is no longer formally withdrawn from the world: they are not monks, but secular clergy that says morning prayer and sings evensong with a choir. These disciplines are still fundamentally monastic. Each church in London says the office every day, singing these same psalms and pray morning and evening prayer, and so interceding for our nation and its leaders. Westminster Abbey is accompanied by all the communities of Christians in London. The Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral down the street, and Methodist Central Hall across the street, all the Christians in all churches in London and cross the nation pray that the good government of God will be learned and brought to us by all these public servants who make up our national government. The whole Church leads the prayers of the nation for justice and good government. The Church is not on Parliament square by an accident of history. Where the Church is, civil society springs up. A healthy civil society appears where all the practices of self-government and public service that are practised within the Church appear. Civil society – the practices of counsel and access to justice – clustered around the Church because they knew that they benefited from listening to the Church, and from the virtues that are developed by Christian discipleship. The institutions of government came because civil society wanted to widen access to this counsel and justice so that it was shared throughout the nation. The Church is no vast political power: in every age Christians have been, at most, the ‘salt’ and the ‘yeast’, and have very often made their contribution against great resistance. Through many a day of darkness, through many a scene of strife the faithful few fought bravely to guard the nation’s life (NEH 485 Plumptre) The Church is not simply the one-time, past source of central government. It is the ongoing source of the innumerable the initiatives of which civil society is renewed and sustained. Where Christians find those who are uncared for, they care and start to serve. On my road there is St Joseph’s Hospice, which nurses those who are terminally ill. There the Christians pray, I hear the
chapel bell every midday, and stay to the end with those who are dying. Next to the Hospice is the Salvation Army, next it is the Jobseekers training centre, also founded and run by Christians. As the service of these Christian institutions is recognised it increasingly receives state funding until their service becomes secularised or is even integrated into some department of government. Meanwhile Christians find new ways to serve. For they are themselves served, by the Lord. 7. The Church between Abbey and Cathedral The Church stands in the centre of the city. The world can gather around or rush past it. The bishop and his Cathedral reminds us that Church stands fast, and while the monks remind us that we are pilgrims on the way and that we have no permanent place here. The City of London stands around St Paul’s Cathedral while Westminster Abbey, the church of St Peter, is outside the City. The church of St Paul looks across to the church of St Peter: the Church looks to these two apostles St Paul and St Peter to help us. The Church alternates between this permanent commitment to this place and this pilgrimage through it. The centre of the diocese of London is named ‘Two Cities’ – the City of London and the City of Westminster. There are two cities here in another sense. When St Augustine made this contrast of ‘two cities’, he was contrasting two societies. The heavenly society is embodied here in the community that we know as the Church. And there is the other community that we refer to simply as ‘society’. The Church is distinct from society, and society is distinct from the Church. This is so even though members of the Church are as much members of society as anyone else, indeed more active members of it. Civil society and the secular sphere are distinct from the Church, so the public square has its own independent dignity. The Church insists that the public square has this independence because it insists that the judgment and conscience of each human being is fundamental. The Church points to this distinction and difference, and it does so for society’s sake. Thus the Church’s clear statement of its own distinct and holy calling is its fundamental service to society. So we pray: Govern and direct your holy Church Fill it with love and truth And grant it that unity which is your will There are also two liturgies. There is the true worship that is directed to God, and all the other worships and adorations that are directed in every other direction. The Church is the progress of the divine liturgy through the world and its many ‘liturgies’ and entertainments. When we are on our way to or from Church, we are not going from a religious event to a non-religious one. It is not that churches are religious places and the streets outside are not. The Church is one religion while the offices in the city are another religion; the Church is one religious community that is always travelling through another, the Christian community on pilgrimage through the city. The whole Church in London journeys the streets of our city, on foot, bus and the train. This particular body, gathered together in public worship or dispersed into every other civil institution, and travelling between one and the other, is the primary presence of Christ to this city and this society. The city does not always give
these pilgrimage a smooth passage. May the Lord give us grace to follow him and make this pilgrimage. With thy living fire of judgment Purge this realm of bitter things Solace all its wide dominion With the healing of thy wings (NEH Scott Holland)
2 Hearing – Disciples
Each church listens to the whole Church throughout the world. The Church in our society is able to be a good and faithful witness to it to the extent that it receives the discipline of the worldwide Church and its teaching through all generations. 1. Discipleship and Leadership Each community of Christians receives its authority from the rest of the worldwide Church. Because the church in this city listens to the whole Church, it is the presence of the whole catholic Church to this city. When the Church is this presence, its witness of the Church to the nation will continue. The nation that has this well-disciplined Church and receives its witness will prosper. Christ give ministers to his Church and himself ministers to us through them. They are responsible to him for passing on to us the whole ministry of Christ. they must mediating to us the whole Church, and so bring us into relationship with all the people of Christ, We therefore pray ‘for all bishops, presbyters and deacons, that they may hunger for truth and thirst after righteousness’, as the Ordination service puts it. They must be trained in the full deposit of faith: for this reason we need a trained, ordained clergy. Our ministers pass on what they have received from Christ and enable us to receive it in full and thankfully. They are the love and discipline of Christ for us. We have to help them to be good transmitters of the faith, and we do this by encouraging them to instruct us, and by taking our complaints to them and to God when they fail to do so. According to the preamble given in the Ordination Service: ‘Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent…They are to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord… they are to search for his children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations and to guide them through its confusions so that they may be saved through Christ forever.’ The minister can only teach what he has learned and can only exercise authority when he himself has been well-discipled and remains properly under authority. The church he ministers to will grow only as his understanding of the gospel allows it to. If his knowledge of Christ and his saints is too small he will be an obstacle to the growth of his congregation. Each minister therefore has to submit himself to the faith of the whole Church and be formed by it; he has continually to study and learn this faith so he can pass on the whole teaching of the Church to his people. The congregation must support him so he can
submit himself to the whole rich resources of the church, and bring to them the goods that he finds there. So we pray:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The minister can teach us that discipline and self-control and the cultivation of the virtues are good and wonderful things. He can lead us towards the priestly life, and show us how to absorb the blows that the world inflicts on the Church from time to time. 2. Body and soul The discipline of Christ is essential to the good news of the gospel. The gospel is freedom because it disciplines our passions, frees us from rage and brings us under proper control. It teaches us to cultivate and restrain our desires so we gain self-control and are able to govern ourselves. It teaches us to find our freedom not in evading the constraints represented by other people, but by controlling ourselves. Our ordained ministers show us the way to master our desires. They are themselves under a monastic discipline; they wear the dark clothes of the monk, and a collar that represents that discipline. When we learn to control ourselves, we are purified, lightened and relieved. Through the discipline of Christian discipleship we discover true joy. We may control ourselves; in more traditional language, the soul may control the body. Christian theology has a very high view of body and soul: it does not exalt one and downgrade the other. We are embodied and therefore we are present and available to one another, and thus we are embodied for one another’s sake. We may learn to be more than simply our own bodies and needs. We learn to hear the demands of others and so we learn self-control. To exercise self-restraint is not to act against ourselves, but simply to act for one another. Our bodies make us available to one another, but we are always whole persons. Our bodies are therefore essentially social. Love is never merely bodily, and no act of ours is solely ‘physical’. All meaningful human action involves learning of disciplines that allow us to be properly present to one another and so to ‘use’ our bodies well in service of one another. By Christian discipleship we may discover how to be free for one another, and so we pray:
From the sins of body and mind; from the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil Good Lord deliver us
We may recover the disciplines of self-control. We may reserve our bodies for one another in marriage, and we may and encourage one another to marry and be self-controlled. We may assure one another that ‘marriage is a gift of God in creation through which husband and wife may know the grace of God’, and that in marriage a man and a woman may we may be united with one another ‘as Christ is united with his bride, the Church.’ The clergy must honour marriage and tell us that it is the way that a society that creates children and brings them up, and grows in confidence thereby. We may not 101
break the link between sex and children, or between children and their own two parents, or between this generation and the next. Children have the right to be brought up by their own biological parents in the arrangement which gives public recognition to the honour of that arrangement. It is the privilege of the Church to be able to say, the words of the Thanksgiving for the birth of a child: Do you receive these children as a gift from God? We do. Do you wish to give
thanks to God and seek his blessing? We do.
The clergy must tells us that marriage is entirely different from any other form of ‘partnership’, that marriage is for good of all society, even those who are not married themselves, and tell us that it takes Christian discipleship and a faithful Church to sustain a marriage. We must praise our clergy as champions of self-control and tell them that we model ourselves on them. Only those who are able reign in their desires, remain celibate and self-controlled can help us. They must show us how to fast in order to recover the joy of the feast. The Church that can say ‘no’ to its own appetites and desires and demonstrate a proper self-mastery is in a position to help the world. It can fast for the sake of the society to which it is sent. The society that cannot rejoice at the Church’s gift of self-control and emulate it will be in constant and miserable struggle with itself. 3. Overlooking the Church Ministers of the Church must regard the Church as the Body of Christ, and not neglect but adore the Church. The cup that our ministers offer us is sometimes a bitter one. It is bitter when the church is served by a clergy who do not greet it as the body of Christ. When Christ is not primarily identified with the gathered community, that community is disempowered and its identity withheld from it. Yet according to his promise Christ is primarily identified with the community that calls on his name. Christ is not be identified solely with the marginalised and unchurched: identification of new groups on the periphery must not take our gaze away from the Church, for if it does, and it is neglected by its own pastors, the Church becomes the most marginalised body of all. Disdain for the Church is simply a failure to love those who are not like ourselves. We must receive the Church in all its marred and ambiguous state and not distance ourselves from it. Our conviction that it is corrupt, hypocritical or distorted by structures or power, hollows out the Church and leaves all its members vulnerable. The belief that the hierarchy of the Church is an unnecessary imposition prevails across the church and even up its hierarchy. But this belief is a refusal to love the Church as Christ’s body for us. Ministers of the Church who do not receive the Church as the presence of Christ betray not only the Church, but the society to which the Church is sent. The pain of our society is caused by our failure to witness to the forgiveness of God. We must learn to identify our society as the people for whom Christ has died, and as the body that belongs to him. Let us pray that we are not the cause of any such offence. Who brought this on thee? Alas, my treason, Jesu hath undone thee. It was I, Lord Jesu, I it was denied thee
I crucified thee (100) The world that receives no word from the Church The world is in anguish. The Church has been given the words by which it can describe the trouble that the world is caught up in, and identify how the troubles felt by its different generations are related. Without the Church, the world is unable to recognise the pressures that are at work within it and there is no relief for that anguish. The Church falsifies the gospel and betrays the society to which it is sent when it tells people only that they have been unjustly treated and are victims. It is the particular sin of the contemporary Church to hand on just that half of the gospel that tells us that we are victims and withholds that half that tells us that we are also perpetrators and sinners. The Church is faithful to God and to man when it tell us that we are not held back primarily by other people, but by ourselves, that is, by our own sin.
From all evil and mischief; From pride, vanity and hypocrisy; From envy, hatred and malice, And from all evil intent Good Lord deliver us
Our society is divided by age-group. Our age-cohort divisions are magnified by the aesthetic and cultural distinctions that are created by the ‘popular culture’ presented to us by the entertainment industries. We are encouraged to remain in an extended adolescence that continues into our thirties and forties. Our children are encouraged into an early sexuality in which each individual has to prove herself by treating her own body as a disposable instrument. When we put off marriage, or understand marriage in terms of lifestyle choice rather than as understood primarily as a covenant of service, our own maturity is delayed and so is the emotional and political development of society as a whole. Responsibility begins when we enter the covenant of marriage, become parents and, motivated by concern for our own offspring, and so become engaged citizens. Here the Church has to bring its gospel of hope. It can tell the young that they owe the debt of life to the old. It can tell them that the Love industries are an idolisation of youth and disobedience to the commandment to honour our parents, and that they have made a generation entrenched in their own resentments and unprepared to serve. The Church must say that these industries feed on a Gnostic and even Manichean fear of our own given embodiedness. Reconciliation of these age-groups and generations, and recovery of an age-mixed community is the hope that the gospel holds out. As long as the possibility and even the promise of this reconciliation is not set out by the Church, we identify those at other stages of life – the selfishness of old or of young people – as the problem. Then the age cohorts of this society withdraw from one another and shift the burden of blame backward or the burden of debt forward for a future generation. The Church can also bring the gospel of hope to us by telling us that the given difference between men and women is good. It must tell us not to denigrate 103
our differences and that the equivalence agenda is a false idol if reduces our differences. We sin when we do not allow ourselves to desire those who are truly, by the fundamental biological difference of sex, different from ourselves. We sin when we indulge the prevailing disdain of the difference of men and women. And we sin when we do not say that marriage is distinct from any other form of ‘relationship’, and that the family and domestic economy has its own dignity that must not be denigrated by ideological, economic or fiscal pressures. No imperative to equality qualifies anyone from however marginalised a section of society for the ordained ministry of the Church. On these issues the Church in London has entered a spiral of silence. This is our sin; it conceal the true witness of the Church and stall our society’s repentance and reconciliation. It holds whole generations and populations in vast falsehoods. As long as the Church does not offer judgment and the prospect of responsibility to this generation it is complicit in the disintegration that our society is beginning to experience. The Church must confess that because it has offered a merely therapeutic gospel and withheld the truth of our responsibility, our society has hardened itself against judgment. The Church that holds silence here is an accomplice in the pain and suffering as our society rends and divides itself, and is watching a new and terrible passion unfolding. But even all this, the sin of the faithless Church, is weak in the face of the love of God. God has determined that we should not rob ourselves of this love, but that, however long the route to it is, we should come to this love for ourselves, and therefore that we should ask for this forgiveness for ourselves, and receive this forgiveness. We should seek the approval of God, and let the approval of men come in its own time. Let us pray:
We are afraid of being known to belong to you. Lord forgive us Christ have mercy.
4. Two liturgies There are two liturgies and two worships. There is Christian worship, and there are all other forms of worship that make up the liturgy of this world. We can see the liturgy of the world most easily in the media and entertainment industries. The images of man it presents us with are innumberable, but all together they show us that each of us is ultimately on our own. And worse than that, they tell us that we are not even a unitary individual being, for they break us up into a number of disconnected selves that inhabit the unconnected realms of work, money, entertainment and sex. The liturgy of the world divides man from man, and then breaks up man in something less than man. It is for the liturgy of the Church to point out that man is being divided here, and to insist that man is of unique and indissoluble dignity, and that man is with man, an indissolubly social being. There are two loves. There is the love of God who is for all men, and is determined that all men should be brought into that peace and contentment that he has established for them in his company. And there is the ‘love’ of the man turned in on himself and determined to exert himself against all others – in the industries that comprise the pagan liturgy and pagan eucharist in which our society engaged. If we do not receive the love of God and hear the 104
judgment of God we will certainly be possessed and dismembered by these other ‘loves’ and the economic powers that retail them to us. The ministers of the Church must feed their people on the Word of God if the Church is to be faithful to this society and save it from being consumed by these other forces. We have lived for this world alone and doubted our home in heaven. In your mercy forgive us. Lord, hear and help us. Another clergy The Church that is faithful to its mission will declare that the image-makers are the ‘clergy’ of a different religion. The designers and brand-managers are the clergy of a rival ‘church’ that adores other gods. Each cult tells us what each of us wants to hear, that we are an individual, who may be free by freeing ourselves of the demands of other people. This single untruth unites all cults. I desire to distinguish myself and to put myself ahead of other people, and so I take the cultic token, and as soon as I take it I am made dependent, and the appetite for more of it starts to grow within me. The clergy of each cult tell me that I will become free as long as I keep buying the service that that cult claims to provide. The entertainment industries and policymakers, who represent another clergy, present us with images of femininity and masculinity; when the Church does not demythologise them these grow cultic figures grow to become the idols and society consumes itself in the course of their worship. Evasion of the love of God and failure to hear the Word spoken to us results in this whole vast engine of delusion and hopelessness. We are running and hiding from the only one who is able to establish and affirm us and taking shelter with those who cannot do so. The pagans live in world which they identity as alien and threatening, and they identify other people and their uncontrolled demands as the danger from which we must be saved. The salvation they offer is a salvation from communion and into isolation. Then we are caught up in a grim reverse-salvation, a shadow-Passover. The cultic service of the entertainment industries have their power only as long as we are in flight from the love of God. So it is for the Church to say that these many secular liturgies are only brief parodies of the divine liturgy and that they must all give way to that true liturgy, which comes from the true love of God for man. So the Church prays: For letting ourselves be drawn away from you By temptations in the world about us Father forgive us: save and help us 5. The patience of Christ God is patient. He allows himself to be tested and offers himself to be tested. So we test God. And why not? We test everything else, checking to see that it will do what we hope. Will God do what he has promised? If we do not reply to him will he still speak to us? Who knows whether all our hesitancy and reluctance is not just a test to see whether God really loves us, enough to continue to call and even to come after us and deliver on all these promises? Scripture helps us to ask these questions: What is man, that you should be mindful of him, the son of man, that you should seek him out? (Psalm 8).
What is man, that you make so much of him, that you set your mind on him, visit him every morning, test him every moment? (Job 7) Christ is faithful, to God and to us who are the project of God. Indeed Christ is the determination of God that man should enjoy this love. He is the Word of God that establishes and secures all things. It is this security which establishes even our own freedom to doubt. We can doubt, because the relationship between man and God is secure, in Christ. Christ’s action, and his constancy in it, makes it possible for us to ask questions and express uncertainty and wonder. It is the beginning of curiosity and of confidence. We can doubt, but only because the Son is faithful. All saints doubt. We live by faith, and faith is tested – by doubt, which we experience as diversion into various forms of busyness, and into dryness, depression or despair. We may indeed wonder whether we can accept this offer of communication that God offers? The question is not only whether God is up to it but whether we are up to it? Surely we would blow it in some way? Can God do it, and can we let God do it? Our own poor opinion of ourselves is our obstacle. We fear that if things can go wrong, they will. And if there is any possibility of them going wrong, let us not expose ourselves to the risk of disappointment. Let us even put our hope in such an outcome. Let us rule against such a vast and scary undertaking as entering communication with God. The hope might be vain so let us give this project. Let up dismiss this hope as too ambitious. The hope of man is that man could hear God and speak back to him and so enter a life and conversation that would delight us forever. In the face of this prospect and hope, all human culture is in convulsions of doubt and selfdoubt. We lurch between premature celebration of this prospect and denial that it cannot be so. For fear that it might be delusory we forbid one another from expressing such a hope. We declare that it is an absurd hope that man could ever be anything but a ravaged creature. Better never to hope, we may think, than to be crushed or tortured by not knowing either way. When the elite of a society decides that it wants to end this hope and forbid anyone from talking about it, it reviles that community, the Church, that stands for the hope of man. So Christ waits and endures this reviling. 6. The individual alone in doubt and despair Perhaps we think that before others can inflict any damage ourselves we would rather inflict it on ourselves. Better that we destroy ourselves sooner rather than be destroyed by others touting this impossible claim that there is hope and life. How appalling to have this hope and then to have it dashed. How much better never to have had our hopes raised in the first place. The costs of failure are so devastating. This is why those who speak about God are ridiculed and vilified. Our society makes despair its safeguard against hope. We can describe this as nihilism and irrationality, but this is the way that has been trod by a whole intellectual tradition – and decides to find in consolation in the resulting despair. We no longer wish to be confronted by our condition. We want to turn our faces to the wall, and not care about anything any longer. Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live,’ as Jonah put it, ‘Yes I am angry enough to die.’ (Jonah) We want
to pull the blanket down over our head and find oblivion. We do not care if we achieve this oblivion by pulling down the whole edifice of human society, so that no one comes after us. We are sure that we are not loved, and are determined to make ourselves unlovable that even God withdraws from us finally in horror. There are two liturgies: there is the Christian liturgy and there is liturgy of this world. Without the Christian faith two things happen. One is that confusion about our identity and doubt about the goodness of human life descend. We are so convinced that others will damage us that we do this damage to ourselves in order to prevent others from doing it to us. The other is that too much certainty about our identity descends and we seek to grasp a more absolute power over our destiny by assuming power over others. We regard ourselves as the only real thing, and are determined not to be interrupted and inconvenienced by anything or anyone. The twin temptations to take power or to become resigned and let ourselves by carried towards despair. The secular tradition assumes that each of us is alone. We are each of us essentially a mind, and that it is only incidental I am attached to this body which you see, and forced by it into interaction with the world. We are tempted to believe that we are trapped in our body and in this world. Such gnosticism views embodiedness as entanglement and misfortune and tempts us to escape our present situatedness, to resent the demands of other people and all the plurality and ambiguity of life. But we are prisoners of any such entangling, disgusting materiality. We are not the victims of an alien creation. But God does not give up on us and withdraw. His covenant is irrevocable. Even if we attempted to destroy all creation, we cannot destroy the love that sustains all creation and every created thing and relationship in it. We can do great harm to creation, to one another and for subsequent generations, but there is no place into which we can creep to end our relationship with God, for every corner has been prepared for us by God to do us good, and not evil. There is no place where evil will prevail and have the last word. In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried out to my God for help (Psalm 18) 7. Waiting witness All mankind yearns. Let us not attempt to repress that yearning or to satiate ourselves in any other way. Let us wait. It is good that we should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good to bear the yoke in our youth; to sit alone in silence when it is laid upon us (Canticle 19 A Song of Lamentation) My heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother (Psalm 131) The Christian congregation also keeps silence. At the beginning of the service, and in particular perhaps when we have received communion whilst others are still waiting, we keep silence. Let all mortal flesh keep silence And in fear trembling stand
The yearning strong with which the soul will long shall far surpass the power of human telling (NEH 137).
We withdraw At certain times of year, in particular in the preparation time of Lent, the Church withdraws from the world. It keeps silence. We let the clamour of the world fade into the distance, and we wait to see what will fill the silence. And what comes is the vastness of what God has for us, mediated to us by the vastness of the patience of God, and the long-suffering of the body of Christ for us. The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him (Canticle 19 A Song of Lamentation) The whole Christian people keep in training and so keep themselves in readiness. This readiness is maintained by all the disciplines of the Christian life, which are something particularly related to asceticism and monasticism. We withdraw in order to get distance between us and its demands. When we have withdrawn we can see better how the world inflicts all sorts of unnecessary requirements on us, and the Christian can then return with something prophetic and compassionate to tell his or her society. The point of withdrawal is to return better able to serve your society by telling it what it is missing. Christians listen, compassionately but critically, to the world. When the world is making exaggerated extreme claims about itself – about its authority to do things, to over-determine the lives of its people in ways that are long-term detrimental to them – we point this out. The Church that lives from the gospel is able to query our public claims, and to point out when the atmosphere becomes poisoned by unsustainable claims, and truth is not heard. The whole church is witness, and as a witness, the whole Church also a martyr.
3 Singing – The Church in the Street
The Church witnesses to the unchanging faithfulness of God. That this community can worship God is evidence that Christ has joined us to himself so that we can know and love the true God and live in reality. 1. Blessing Thanksgiving is the mode in which Christians address one another. We do not accuse or denigrate. We thank God for one another, and we thank each other. Christ is entirely able to give us the recognition we desire. He has enough love for us. As a result the Church is able to sing and tell the world that it is loved. The Church blesses, and encourages and commends, passing on the blessing it has received. It says: Blessed are you the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ For you have blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing
Christians send their praise to God. As long as we praise God we serve the society to which we are sent. The Church is the people called here to sing, fast, feast, mourn, celebrate. If we speak the truths of the gospel publicly our society can remain healthy. If we do not dispel falsehood they accumulate to choke the public sphere. We thank one another for each reprimand, each accusation, each lesson and reminder. We are able to name what is not right and to repent, for ourselves and for others. We are able to give thanks to God, to receive what we have as blessings. We are the people who are able to sing and be glad. We celebrate the possibility of fasting, self-control and freedom. We celebrate the possibility of control over our expenditure, over our lifestyle and consumption, and of discipleship lived without fanfare or economic reward. We celebrate self-control and discipleship; we celebrate celibacy and singleness. We celebrate marriage, and every other form of covenant and public service. On our definition, ‘growth’ means growth in maturity not growth in material goods or ‘services’. Our gross domestic product is thanks, joy, truth, kindness. Our GDP is a confident society, that is able to bless and say that it has been blessed. 2. From Abbey to Cathedral – the Way of the Resurrection and Cross The Christian community sings to all other communities and each Christian sings as they go through the city. Every church congregation goes out to meet together with other churches, and to pray and worship together with them. The Church in this city must do what it does for every city and every society. It must say: We proclaim not ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake We walk from our church to others. We may walk for instance from the Abbey to the Cathedral, from Westminster to St Paul’s in the City. Let us imagine that you and I walk the city together. We could start at Westminster Abbey where we will say Morning Prayer, and then walk through the West End to St Paul’s, there to celebrate the eucharist. As we go we pray and sing, and every so often we stop, and pray again. We could take the most direct route, up the Strand, or we could meander past every church in the West End. As we walk we can give thanks and celebrate whatever is good and greet them all as promises of the resurrection. We could call our walk the way of the resurrection. We could stop before each church on the route and give thanks, celebrating that God has come to us in Christ, and opened to us all the possibility of communion and society. But when it is right to pray and mourn this would be a way of the cross, a via crucis. And on any walk we could alternately mark stations of the cross as we notice whatever is destructive, and stations of the resurrection, alternating stations of grief with stations of rejoicing. We could sing on the pavement, on the steps of each Church or outside, or on the site of, any Christian or charitable foundation, celebrating whatever is good and pointing to whatever every way that institution points to the communion of God with man. We can greet all London as the dwelling place of the Lord and regard London as Zion-in-the-making. We can sing: Behold now, praise the Lord all ye servants of the Lord, Ye that by night stand in the house of the Lord even in the courts of the house of our God. Life up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. We could stop outside
any institution that represents despair and the disintegration of that communion, and there we could pray and lament what is destructive there. We also regard London as a place of exile where we sing: ‘We sat down and wept when we remembered thee O Sion’ (Psalm 137). So we could walk from Abbey to cathedral and back again, singing and praying the songs of the Church, which are the love songs of Christ for this city. We could do this, you and I, and it would be a day well spent. 3. The mission and pilgrimage of the Church in London The Church moves from church to church. Let us follow as it travels from withdrawn to visible, from pilgrimage people to settled and established people, from Abbey to Cathedral. This is just right for us to walk, praying and processing. You bring your people and I will bring mine, and together we wing sing the praises of God and pray for the city of London. Let us go together singing and praying, from Westminster to St Paul’s. We could ask the community of the Abbey to lead us, singing the psalms of ascent and we could invite every church in London to come with us, so that make visible a little of the evangelical and charismatic catholicity of the people of God. Together we would be the Body of Christ made briefly visible to the city as these Pentecostal, Black and Independent churches, Vineyard and Jesus House, along with the Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish and Latin American churches, along with the Greek, Romanian and Russian Orthodox churches, along with the Baptists and Methodists, even the well-heeled West End church of England churches, along with and anyone who knows how to sing the praises of God, or wants to know. In these many guises the Body of Christ could sing and pray its way from Westminster Abbey, around Parliament Square, the Houses of Parliament, up Whitehall, across Trafalgar Square, up the Strand, past the ‘love’ industries of the West End, past the lawyers, universities and media of the Strand, and past the finance houses of Ludgate Hill. The Church can do this together on public feast days, and can it do so every day. It can sing over the course of this most pilgrimage way, from Abbey to Cathedral, twice daily. This is our way of the cross and of the resurrection combined. It is the Passover passage through which the Church travels through the ire of the world. This will be the way of the cross for the Church. When the Church takes this way and is constant in it, the same route will also be the passage way for the world by which the world can pass through into the communion of God. The Church will be this passageway for the world, and so for the world this will be the way of resurrection to salvation and life. 4. Other mediators, other songs But it is not only the Christian community that sings its songs. London is thick with adoration, all of it religious. Many other songs make up the marketplace of our public interaction. There is prayer and singing in every business in every office in every street. It is not the Christian worship of course, but worship and singing prayer is most certainly going on there. Each floor of each office sings a different part, from low to high. For every office is nothing but choirs singing the song that will woo and transport the customers. Each street is full of shrines, each of which represents some part of our good
humanity. Sound and light pour out of each shop, each of which identifies but then magnifies out of all proportion some aspect of the promise of our redemption. Each shrine will let you join the band of those who have the authority promised to those who enter and hand themselves over to this cult. Each of these shop windows promises to acknowledge that you belong to the great company of the attractive and promises to raise you out of the melee of the unattractive. We said that the Church is the gathering of all, of the attractive and non-attractive together, so it alone is the inclusive or as we say, the catholic, community. The fact that each shop promises to raise you out and away from others makes it an anti-church. So when you walk through these streets from Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s Cathedral you pass shops and offices, and the offices are the headquarters of the retail chains that have a shop in every high street. In every shop window you see images: they are religious images, for they are images of humanity and of humanity’s redemption – corrupted and perverted. Outside each of them, on the pavement, the Church prays: You know the secrets of our hearts Forgive us our sins Holy God Holy and strong, holy and immortal Have mercy on us. 5. The disembodiment industries The images in the shops show us man and woman in their perfection. The travel agent’s window has images of perfectly formed and tanned bodies, draped by the pool, on impossibly blue skies in the land of our fantasy. Happiness is not here on this street, but there, on that perfect beach, these images tell us, so fly, from your drab normality here to that perfection there. The passing column of the Church says, do not fly but be reconciled to us. In the windows of the health club tanned and glossed bodies are on display, while the bodies inside sculpt and tone that perfect body. There is the cosmetician who will book you in for the surgery that will give you the body that you hope will take away a weight of frustration and disappointment of failed relationships. They will enlarge this part of your body and reduce that part, cutting and re-shaping your body so that, you hope, it will be acceptable to the rest of us. The passing procession of all God's people replies that Christ’s body consists in all shapes and sizes and all are to be received from him with thanks. Who do you think that we are, what sort of hard judges do we have to be, for you to put yourself through this ordeal? We the Church, love you and your body the way you are. The Church says that every image shows a human being, and every human being is an icon of Christ, and Christ is the icon of all of us reconciled and redeemed. When a few beers have lowered our defences, we will find the nightclub. The club is our slave market where, no pretence now, we all line up, we eye one another, all hunters and all game. We are selling our wares and we are all in 111
the market to buy. All we want is that instantly gratifying collision of bodies. We don’t want a whole body – we only want the experience of getting hold, but we must be able to let go, to detach ourselves and to leave again without complications. All we want is that first minute of encounter, but we want to reexperience this moment continually, so that we are always just taking hold of this other body, and we will give away all other hopes in order to prolong and to repeat this moment. Outside on the pavement, the Church prays: For letting ourselves be drawn away from you By temptations in the world about us Father forgive us: save and help us There is the ‘pregnancy advice centre’, and here is the pharmacy that will help you with the ‘emergency contraception’. It will take your baby away from you and terminate this society’s hopes of a new generation; it will flush away all your emotional integrity out of reach, and have your metabolism see-sawing so madly that years will pass before your body returns to normality again. Get back to your place at the bar, and show us how just how cool and hard, detached and untouchable you are. You will keep your secret, and society will pretend not to know. Outside the abortion clinic the Church cries: Shut not your ears to our prayers But spare us, O Lord Holy God Holy and strong, holy and immortal Have mercy on us. In the images of the advertisements and the music pumped through each outlet each is working to beguile and enchant you, so that you fall in love with the image – an image of yourself – that they display. They play the song by which they hope that you will fall in love, for they hope to mediate in this love affair, but the only love that they can mediate is love of yourself, their whole calling is to assist you with your own narcissism. The Church goes through the streets singing to the city and telling every individual in the city that they are loved, by God. In our songs, we tell them, ‘You are loved, you are loved, you are loved. We love you. You may not want our love, you may despise it, but here it is nonetheless, unchanging. And when you have gone round in circles for another twenty years, only to find that you have gone backwards and are less able to sustain any relationship, still we are here, and you are loved, by us, as we are loved, you and us together, by God.’ This is what the Church tells city as it sings in its streets. We hear the Word and the promise of God, and we repeat it back to whoever is ready to hear it. The shops give us the faces of the liturgy of this world; the banks and finance houses behind provide the blood supply. To all that the Church observes it raises that the question-mark of the cross. 6. London as global mediator Our prayer walk from Abbey to Cathedral takes us up the Strand, away from the West End entertainment industries, towards the City. But here London is just as thick of adoration, just as religious and just as narcissistic . You want to know what is going on in the offices above and behind the shops? Each office 112
is full of people calculating which image and set of properties to invest their product and what price and image and marketing package to give it. they calculate how to draw the lines over the recumbent body of our society. They consider how to woo us in. Each offers to set us apart, each professes to want a ‘relationship’ with us. Each financial department decides how much bait they can afford to put on each hook, and tells the marketing people. The marketing people ask themselves what profile and which set of characteristics to attach to each product. They decide on the icon, the glossy face, before which they hope that each segment of the population will do obeisance. They calculate who to include in the firm’s household and who to exclude. They have to pull in those with charisma and push out those whose charisma is exhausted and who can give them nothing more. They have to churn. Each office is marketing All these choirs are singing their devotion to us. They want to dedicate themselves to our service. Only one thing they cannot truthfully say – that their love is disinterested, for they want something, and need something from us, and that something is – everything. They cannot have enough of us, for without us, they have no life. What these ‘services’ and ‘liturgies’ cannot tell you is that the customers that bring in the charisma which is the product that is ostensibly being sold. Each shop is receiving charisma from its top-end customers and lending it to its bottom-end customers. The Church prays: We have seen the ill-treatment of others and not gone to their aid; Lord be merciful: forgive us our sin. In these offices their are people offering their mediatorial services for every significant transaction all around the world. They are all trying to bring that business to London, so that no one in Asia can do business without accessing the necessary approval from London, and cutting London in. only London provides the final, most formal and definitive affirmation of your ability to meet and exchange together. London has to sell itself as offering the most rigorous, the most up-to-the-minute protocols, so that any transaction that has not been performed according to the standards established and policed in London is not yet the last word. That is all that is going on in each of these offices, in the City and the West End. This is the marketplace. In this market we buy in order to build ourselves up and we sell in order to have the means to do so. We sell shares in ourselves and we buy shares in one another. We are on sale here. Most of those bought and sold will never see the marketplace of London themselves. Every shop and business in London is a shrine. Each offers us an image of man. But no business is able to point to truthfully to the whole vast mystery of man unless, however indirectly, it receives the discipline and shaping of Christ. If it cannot take the questions of the Church represented by the cross, it cannot truthfully be a shrine to man. It can only reflect back to us, distorted aspects of our own present existence. Each tempts us to isolate ourselves from others; each bank or building society promises to keep you just ahead of the crowd, and just a little more comfortable than everyone else. Each is therefore a pretend church, because it claims that all sorts are welcome, and
that real inclusiveness and universality is found there. But the Church on this pavement puts to the city the question – How shall all this be judged? When the whole market is up for appraisal, what value will be put on it? How can London truly perform this mediation and priestly office unless it acknowledges the true priesthood? Were have to confess: We have not loved you with our whole heart Nor our neighbours as ourselves Lord be merciful: forgive us our sin. Christ sings for London The origin of our worship is that God speaks in our praise. He gives us words of love and acknowledgement, and so he takes pride in us. The body of Christ re-directs this the traffic of human recognition to its source, and so it receives its proper distribution and renewal. It prays: It is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy, at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise, holy Father, heavenly King
4 Praying – The Church leads our repentance
The Church is that part of the world that prays truly. The Church prays and speaks for the world, expressing its misery and helplessness to God. And in doing so the Church also addresses the world, and appeals to it to receive the forgiveness held out to it by God. 1. Under the cross The Church carries the cross through the streets of the city. It carries it as though it were a large exclamation mark or question-mark raised over everything that it passes over. It invites people to judge themselves, and to help one another to come to a better judgment. One day they will examined by the whole assembly of not and earth and that assembly will be led by God, the true and just judge. It prays: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. When we carry the cross through London, the City is able to see that this question can be raised of it. The economy of London is simply the sum of our action, and what that sum is, is the question we must ask ourselves. We may examine ourselves. We may ask the London business community to give its reply. We may ask the question on behalf of the vast numbers who work in service industries of London and Britain, and on behalf of the much greater number worldwide whose labour has supported and increased the economy of London and supported the United Kingdom in this lifestyle. Across the world populations of workers have invested a lifetime of labour without seeing a return. The Church may put their question to this nation and to this city of London. We may put these questions now so that when judgment comes
finally, all the businesses and people of this city are ready to give an account of their stewardship. The Church puts its questions to the market. It asks them whether by promoting these people that it has not made these other groups of people invisible. The Church not only asks this question; the Church is this question. We cannot be surprised that the Church is not universally popular, or that its own members look for ways to reduce the burden of odium they must carry. Christians are on public display. Says, St Paul, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world (1 Corinthians 4.9). So we pray:
We confess we have failed you… we fail to share the pain of your suffering, we have run away from those who abuse you We are afraid of being known to belong to you Christ have mercy (CW p. 125 Confessions).
Christ sings the songs of the poor, despised and neglected to us, and he sings them against us. We must hear them, and must sing these songs too, and be transformed from the proud and autonomous man, too far away to hear, too busy to reply, into the poor and righteous man of the psalms’ description. We have the privilege of singing the songs of lament, as we groan with so who groan. So we have to mention in our prayers all those parts of the world which have withered as London has grown, and we must ask whether London has consumed them. 2. The Church weeps The Church repents. It has not asked the questions that would have prepared our society to live will or give good account of itself. It has not clearly set the truth out before the world and told it about the generosity and justice of God. It has not laid out the possibility and inevitably of repentance, and our absolute need to seek forgiveness, from one another and from God. It has not taught the world how to examine itself and to weep. We repent of being the Church that has not passed on the whole Christ and so that has not interceded for those who it has made invisible, voiceless, defenceless. We have not interceded for those whose lives have been blighted by the same processes that have made us wealthy. We plead:
In the midst of life we are in death; where can we turn for help? Only to you Lord Who are justly angered by our sins Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal, have mercy on us. Shut not your ears to our prayers But spare us, O Lord Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal, have mercy on us (CW p.131)
Every Christian is a intrinsically a representative, who speaks for others, rather than simply for himself. The world may ask us whether we have not spoken merely for ourselves and not for others, and the Christian community must hear this charge and examine itself. Sometimes this charge is correct, and the Christian community has acted simply as another sectional interest.
Then the Church has to hear this charge as prophecy and as the word and judgment of God. God may speak against the Church that has not spoken for the world. So we sing: We who set at nought and sold him Pierced and nailed him to the tree Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing Shall the true Messiah see (Source 324 Wesley) The world is bleeding. We say that it is the world that is the bleeding body of Christ, unknown, unrecognised. The world has no means of self-control and so it gives itself away. The Church is given to world to be its head and its selfcontrol. The world that does not receive the Church is bleeding. The Church that refuses to serve the world and to be its head and to pass on what it has received, is responsible to God for the world that bleeds. So we sing: O Sacred Head surrounded by crown of bleeding thorn! O Bleeding head, so wounded So shamed and put to scorn! (Gerhardt NEH 90) We repent of being an untaught Church. We repent of being afraid of the world to which we have been sent, of being too afraid to tell it what it needs to hear, and so of having betrayed it. We repent of having withheld judgment and the message of the cross. We repent of having substituted activism for worship, for having assumed that we are more inclusive, less judgmental, more tolerant than previous generations of Christians. We repent of having thought that they were wrong in their judgments and that we were more righteous than those who came before us. This cup we drink is bitter, because there is confession, repentance, even penance in the mix. We must dump at the altar our belief that we know better than the historic Church. 3. Procession and litany The Church travels through London. It does so daily as Christians criss-cross the city, working and serving in every part of it. And the Church does so formally and so publicly in its services and processions. As the Church processes it sings and prays. As we see the city in turmoil around us we pray and compose our litany for our city. We pray a litany of repentance for the Church’s failure to pass on the good things of God:
We have seen the ill-treatment of others and not gone to their aid; Lord be merciful; forgive us our sin.
The truth and dignity of man are held up by the Church. Freedom is the gift that God gives to man, which makes him the image of God and which cannot be surrendered. So our processions are led by the cross, by the Mystical Body of Christ, by the saints and by Mary. Each of these gives us a different theological account of our identity on this procession, and they are all required. Each procession sings and prays in terms of the division of the body and gathering of the body. Together the worshipping and lamenting Church asks whether the body of this country, Britain, is being broken and divided or renewed and restored.
On its journey through our city the Church must stop outside each business and pray for those who are serving there, and for those who are being served there, and for those who are being carved up and sold there. We lament when we see that any section of London or of this nation of ours being ostracised and derided. We lament when we see that London is consuming or crucifying any other part, however distant, of the world, and however hard that violence is to identify. Whichever way the violence is going, we lament, for from selfinflicted wounds our country is bleeding and giving up hope. We pray:
Lord Jesus you heal the wounds of sin and division, jealousy and bitterness On us: Christ, have mercy (CW. p134)
In front of the betting shop the passing Church prays for the men whose hopes are being drawn out through their pockets. It will tell them not to give up; it will tell them that they may become the image of God, and that being men is part of this image. It will say that they can recover control over their lives and restore their relationships with their partners and children. We tell them that they can re-gain the self-possession to be husbands and fathers who have the love and respect of their wives and children. We stop outside each clothing shop. We cannot wear the clothes made in China and India without thanking those who sowed them for us, and asking God to release us from, that is to forgive us, our debts to them. In our intercessions we must pray for the good order of their societies and governments, and must name the churches in China and India that are suffering the lack of that order. The taint of the lack of that good order will cling to the goods we receive from them. So the Church hears the psalm:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me (Psalm 51)
Every commercial service we offer one another is good, as long as it truly is a service. We ask whether it serves to divide each generation from its parents, or to reconcile them. The Church is not saying that there should be no gyms, pharmacists, clubs, banks: it merely asks each enterprise and institution examine itself and ask whether it brings the British new hope and enough selfrespect enough to want to bring up a new generation. We celebrate each church we pass as the place in which the body is healed and made whole by Christ. 4. The society on the cross We are led by the cross. Jesus is on the cross: he was crucified, for us. The cross shows us man in the throes of death. So we sing: Glory be to Jesus Who in bitter pains Poured for me the life-blood From his sacred veins (NEH 83) The cross reflects the violence around us, and which we have inflicted on one another. The cross is a mirror, but the figure we see there is not just him, but us. For it is our society that has put itself on the rack. It wants to love and to 117
be loved, but it also fears, and it wants to remain in control, so be ready to withdraw from love. It does not want receive the love of God, to whom all love belongs and to whom all love returns. It bunches itself together into a black hole of love rejected and turned into anger and misery. So the figure on the cross is us. That is our generation and our society. We are the ones squirming, passing on our rage and resentment and slowly engulfed by them. Each of us is a battleground on which our passions fight for possession of us. The body on the cross is the body of Britain. But the cross is not just inflicted on us; we are also the perpetrators of this misery. We inflict it on each other and we inflict it on ourselves. By denying this love, and bunching ourselves up into a refusal of love we have constructed this rack and this prison cell and by our denial that there is any wider more spacious place beyond it, we confine ourselves here. But we, the British, are not on the cross without Christ. Even our utter determination to barricade ourselves against Christ, cannot reduce or distance that love. So despite ourselves, we are not in our misery without him. Though we are on this cross, and in this misery, and heading for this death and hell, he does not leave us here alone. He does not go. He remains with us and stands among us. When we look into that cross we may realise that he is here with us. And where he is, is the Church. Man is being crucified. We see his slow disintegration and dissolution happening all around us. All our vast world-building confidence is the attempt to pretend that this is not happening, to distract us from this dissolution, to give us some brief compensation and allow us to believe for a while that it will not touch us. But as others see its marks appear on us they turn away from us and each of us is abandoned and left alone. But man is not left there alone. But Christ is with him. And Christ takes on the full force and weight of the process of dissolution and lifts it from man. Man cannot suffer it and withstand. So Christ is the only one who will finally suffer this crucifixion to the end. He will lift this appalling fate from every man. No man need take this fate because Christ has taken it on in its entirety. Christ has suffered our crucifixion, and it has not touched us. The forces that we unleashed have not been allowed to make an end of us. He has taken our strife and death, and lifted it from us and taken it away from us. So we sing: See from his head, his hands, his feet sorrow and love flow mingled down did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown? (NEH 95 Watts) When we look at London we see the crucifixion of man. And we see the crucifixion of man lifted and removed and replaced by the crucifixion of Christ. Christ suffers here, and through his suffering, wrestles, overcomes and subdues all the forces that we unleashed. In taking on the powers that we released, he is crucified and he continues to undergo this death and until it is utterly extinguished. By this long crucifixion, we ourselves may survive what we unleashed.
4. Division and separation Outside each shop we may ask whether the body of Christ is being broken and so crucified again. We ask whether we have passed on the good things of God or withheld them. We may ask whether our failure has resulted in national self-harming – family break-up, abortion, fatherless young people turning tribal, disassociation from our own bodies, the sexualising of our children and taking of childhood away so our children don’t grow in imagination and character. The Church laments all evidence of love rejected and substituted for. We lament our lost marriages. We lament our failure to grow up and take responsibility for one woman or one man. We lament for those people in the their thirties who have no wish to remain single and for which all media promises of the instantaneity of love seem only to mock them. We lament the cruelty of delusion promoted by the Love Industries. We lament that we have not cultivated our own public memory, but instead imported our icons of the good life from global media industries. We lament of those taken in by the claims of the love industries’ that love means gratification in a moment, that needs no work at it, and never need stick at a relationship of which one side can say that love has gone out. Their success depends on their substituting a rolling series of partners’ or partnerexperiences, encounters, in which each side briefly tries the other and finds them wanting. The Church prays:
You know the secrets of our hearts Forgive us our sins Holy God Holy and strong, holy and immortal Have mercy on us.
We lament the disassociation and disengagement of generations. We lament our discouraged parents, the fathers who do not see children, and the fatherless teenagers. We lament our disengagement from our parents’ generation, and the way we render them powerless and invisible in care homes and hospitals. We pray:
May the Father of all mercies Cleanse us from our sins And restore us in his image To the praise and glory of his name (CW p. 135 Absolution)
We lament the partners not found, and we pray for those who have no wish to remain single. The Church calls out for those men without women, women without men, and prays for the marriages that have not taken place. It laments the missing husbands and missing wives, and the children who have not been born, and the population that has not grown, and which will now grow old alone before its television. The Church sings: But this I know he heals the broken-hearted And stays our sin and calms our lurking fear And lifts the burden from the heavy-laden For yet the saviour, saviour of the world is here (199)
We may also stop outside the ‘Pregnancy Advice Centre’, and there we may pray for our lost children, our Holy Innocents: Heavenly Father, whose children
suffered at the hands of Herod, though they had done no wrong; may the suffering innocence of your Son frustrate all our despairing and evil designs. In your humility you have stooped to share our human life with the most defenceless of your children: may we who have received the gifts of your passion rejoice in the witness of your holy innocents (CW p.445 Holy Innocents).
5. Resurrection and separations overcome At intervals on our procession we arrive at a church or Christian foundation. These are the wells along our route, from which we must draw water. We celebrate those places in which Christians in previous generations have reconciled their society and been instrumental in its healing. We celebrate signs of the arrival of new reconciliation and wholeness in our society. We pray: Come, let us return to the Lord who has torn us and will heal us. God has stricken us and will bind up our wounds. After two days, he will revive us, and on the third day will raise us up (Canticle) We celebrate the chance for a new generation to learn the discipleship and character by which we can love one person truly and exclusively. We celebrate Christian marriages. We celebrate because each marriage is a covenant of mutual service that, since it is open to the arrival of children, this partnership brings a new generation into being, and with it, new hope and purpose. Every marriage is therefore also for the sake of society as a whole. We celebrate the healing of denominational divisions in the Church in London. We celebrate the joining of Christians from Ghana, Nigeria, Poland, Philippines. We look forward to each church being received and honoured by every other. We greet the Church as the leaven of society, the love and selfpossession that sustains civilisation. And we say that the glory, invincible and indivisible body of the Lord is drawing all men to himself. He is holding our society together in one society. He is the salvation and redemption of our society, he is our unity and the guarantor of the covenant by which we may live together in peace in one society. 6. Saints, witnesses and martyrs The Church travels through London daily on its unbroken procession. The saints are here, but London may hardly notice. They are at work everywhere, yet they are seeds into the ground, not visible. But on our festivals – Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Morning, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and Advent – we gather together, and sing and pray. When we process we carry the banners of our churches with their images of Christians from this city and the worldwide Church. The world in its own agony will be pleased to see us on some occasions, and on others it will be enraged by us and do what it can to silence us. So we must pray:
In the midst of life we are in death… O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us from the bitter pain of eternal death.
And sing: Though still we march by ambushed arms Of death and hell surrounded (NEH 479) This pilgrimage and mission will be a way of the cross for us. As we bear it and suffer it, we will realise that many Christians in other generations have borne the cross through these streets before us. The saints and witnesses have been given, and often also worn out and broken for us. We must be able to name them. They have given themselves for us, as so received martyrdom for our sake. So we sing: For all thy saints Lord who strove in thee to live who followed thee obeyed adored Our grateful hymn receive (215 Mant) We can address all our Christian contemporaries as our fellow pilgrims. We carry banners of churches, and images of our bishops, our saints and the leaders of the contemporary church with a prayer from each. Every church has to have banners of our recent leaders from every part of the church and every churchmanship. We may carry these banners in pain of contradiction and with tears in our eyes. That is why the Church is able to sing: Death’s mightiest powers have done their worst and Jesus hath his foes dispersed; Let shouts of praise and joy outburst Alleluia (159)
5 Eucharist – Redeemed Creation
1. Christ crucified The Church is sent to the city to lament the absence of Christ and to wait for him to appear. The Church points to Christ’s absence and looks for to his coming again in great glory in its celebration of the eucharist. The Church declares that Christ has died for us, and risen again to bring us his eternal life. And it points out that we see his passion continue here around us. It is the passion of man, yet the passion which Christ refuses to abandon man to, but which he takes on for himself and then accompanies him through. Where is the glory of Christ? We sing: O sacred head, sore wounded, defiled and put to scorn; O kingly head surrounded with mocking crown of thorn: What sorrow mars thy grandeur? The world suffers and groans as it waits for its redemption. On the cross Christ suffers the world, and the Church is the form in which his body suffers, takes and absorbs the violence of the world for us. In his person on the cross the whole world travails, as it waits for its redemption, in which all the lost are restored. 121
We say that this glory is hidden for us: Sweet Sacrament divine! Hid in Thy earthly home, In thy far depths doth shine thy Godhead's majesty (Stanfield) The body of Jesus is what this hymn calls the ‘lowly shrine’. And this corpse in placed in this tomb is our salvation. The hiding place of God, is right here before us and in our very hands. 2. The materiality of the body We receive the bread and wine as the gifts of Christ, which will become the body and blood of Christ. We live as material creatures, who must always be nourished and sustained by taking and consuming other material things, and above all animal creatures in order to sustain ourselves. As psalm 104 puts it, He makes grass grow for the cattle and plants for man to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread that sustains his heart.’ Even in London, or especially in London, we need to know where we come from, and it is for the Church to tell us. We need to know in order to be thankful so that we can celebrate his eucharist. Every one of us is a material being, a creature of flesh, who requires inputs that he is unable to source for himself. This whole city is dependent on those who feed it, however little we know who they are. Far away from London, imagine a peasant farmer. He regards his animals as the meat that will feed his family. When these animals are eaten their bodies will become part of his own body and the bodies of his children. Each shepherd regards his flock not only as the future nourishment. They are animal bodies now, but they will turn into human bodies by next year. As he looks at this flock or herd he knows he is looking at the future of the bodies of his own people. And what is so for him is true for us too. In order that your body remains fit and healthy, something like the following events have to occur. A farmer takes his flock to market where they are bought by the wholesaler; the slaughterman turns them into carcasses; the butcher who turns these into packets of meat taken on by the distributor’s freight transport people. The transportation people are supported by the insurers (and all so who attempt to take some of the risk out of this process,, whether it be insurers, vets and food hygiene people). The transporters are supported by all those who pilot the ships and planes, and all those who service those craft and maintain that network, and all those who train them, and police and protect them. The meat of this sheep travelled from a New Zealand hillside to your plate because a hundred people operated they machinery by which this meat was packed in this box into this pallet, into this container and this trolley and onto this display shelf. This is already a great host of people. That is all well for our staples, meat and potatoes, wheat and rice. But we add the tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate, and everything else that flavours our food and titivates our appetite, all sourced from parts of the world with much great economic and politic challenges. We eat a thousand meals a year, each
constituted by ten ingredients sourced from every part of the world, each of which passes through the machine-minding hands of tens of people. We are the product of thousands of people, who are themselves supported by hundreds of thousands of others. At every point we can ask whether that man earned enough to keep himself, to keep his family to be able to send any of his children at least to primary school. If he is not adequately paid, we will have been eating at his expense. All this tells us that our body is not simply our own. The input of all these others gives them a stake in our body. Our body is an industrial and a global synthesis and construction. When we consider that film-wrapped cut of meat in its little polystyrene tray in the supermarket chiller-cabinet, we are looking at this crowd of people. They are the crowd that has produced the herd that makes our body. They never meet, yet their labour meets, in this piece of lamb, and since we are now to eat this lamb, their labour meets in our body. The labour of all of these people has gone into each meal. We owe our own bodies to them. So now we have to ask of whether Have we eaten at their expense? Are they built up by this process or exhausted and consumed by it? Have we eaten with them, or is it they who have been consumed in this process? We must ask ourselves this question before the voices of the destitute reach God and he comes to ask it of us. So the Church sings: Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed, Paschal victim, Paschal bread With sincerity and love Eat we manna from above (138). Each of us is flesh and meat. My body you is made of the wheat, and of the sheep, cows, sheep and chickens I have eaten. Eating does not merely sustain my body but it creates it in the first place: my body is nothing but food, animated. And I need my body in order to be locatable and available to you and you to me. These animals make us present to one another and the labour of these many thousands and hundreds of thousands of unseen people, make us present to one another. So you and I are only present to each other because we are physically and materially embodied, but we are only materially embodied because other people have served us and contributed their labour, so we are not merely flesh and meat, but the labour and in so by the years of other people’s lives. We are beings with bodies. Their labour has given us these bodies, clothed us in this meat, so we have to concede that we are clad in their labour, even we might say clad in their lives. So the Church prays:
We have wilfully misused your gifts of creation We have seen the treatment of others and have not gone to their aid We have condoned evil and dishonesty and failed to strive for justice Lord be merciful. Forgive us our sin.
3. Creation unredeemed All these foods are transported here, and oil is a major part of their delivery and processing to us. We consume oil, and we source it from place with so little in the way civil society that this vast flow, oil that without any local effort, without processing or local added value, turns so instantly into pure money
and creates such surges of power that the rule of law is always hanging by a thread. The oil that sustains our serene progress through life also jolts these other societies in the Gulf and Nigeria and makes it impossible for them to learn the virtues and exercise of responsibility, to develop the legal framework and good practices that enables a stable market and civil society to emerge. Just as their heroin brings distress to our streets, so does their oil in our cars bring distress to their marketplace, their political assembly and public square. And we employ these people to labour and clean for us, because we consider labouring and cleaning to be beneath us. and we employ them to nurse our elderly parents, because we are too busy to so ourselves, and to look after our children. We even import the populations of other countries because we know that we need their children to pay taxes to pay our pensions when we have retired. We have given up having enough children, so we happy that these immigrants will have children for us. For all that, they, and not we, are the ones who have confidence to have children. 4. Another bread, another cup We do not know who has paid for us Human beings are creatures, and our bodies are made of other creatures. We are dressed in all creation. But it is not a creation given to us in freedom, not willingly given to us by those who have worked for it. we need this creation, and our own bodies, to be cleared. We need this mortgage on them to be cleared. We have other people’s blood on our hands, and indeed on our bodies. They need to be separated from us and to be restored, so that they too are dressed, gloriously, in all creation. We come to the altar with who knows what debts, our lifestyle sustained at what long term cost. We do not know whether the food that has nourished and ultimately constitutes our bodies has come from producers, the farmers in plantations on the other side of the world, who have not been adequately recompensed for, whose bodies are not adequately nourished. We have consumed food unpaid for, made by workers unnamed and unacknowledged. We have to ask ourselves this question before we hear the words ‘The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty (James 5.4). It may be that even the material of our own bodies belongs to others. Could it be that we are consuming them and when the Lord looks at us, he only hears their voices? We must ask ourselves this, so we do not have to hear the words ‘Will evildoers never learn – those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the Lord?’ (Psalms 14.4 & 53.4) This is particularly the question for the church here in the city of London, where the commodity markets are. Are the producers getting a fair price for their coffee and cocoa? We may not know, but God knows. When Christ mediates this world, and thus our own created bodies, to us, they may become truly ours. Prayer to Christ cancels all unseen debts on the food and fuel which sustains us. Christ can release us from the workers who have sustained us, and release them from us. But if we do not allow God does not
release us from these workers who have fed us and so sustained our bodies, we remain in debt to them. Ignorance or denial of that debt means that we are in hock to powers we are not aware of. The body of Christ is still bound and being beaten. To this the Church confesses that we are defying and offending Christ. So it sings: Glory be to Jesus Who in bitter pains Poured for me the life-blood From his sacred veins (83). Other cups There are always two cups set before us, the cup the Lord and the cup offered by other masters: since they have no resource of their own, what other masters offer us they have taken from others, so when we eat with them it may be at the expense of the poor, and our feast that is making them poor. When we come to the altar we do not know what debts we have, or at what long term cost to others sustains our lifestyle. It may be that even the material of my own body belongs to others and that when my body appears at the altar rail it is their voices that God hears? We may not know but we can surely ask whether in this global economy we are sacrificing the poor in a pagan sense. It is the whole task of the Church to put this question, to man and to God: Should you not know justice, you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones, who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot? (Micah 3.1). If we do not give receive our bodies from these workers through the mediation of Christ, our bodies are not our own. If we do not receive ourselves from Christ we are the function of other alien powers, famished, needy, resentful. If we do not take this food from Christ, and ask Christ to pay those whom we have not paid or cannot pay, this food may be an anti-eucharist. The Sovereign Lord says ‘Call out to all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you. There you will eat flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were fattened animals’.’ (Ezekiel 39.17). So we say:
Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us
5. Christ acts alone – against us Christ protects the poor. He protects them from us. He declares that he is ‘against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them’ (Ezekiel 34.7-10) Christ regards the suffering of the poor as his own. Christ suffers because those that he regards as his own people and substance, are wounded. He bears them and is covered in their blood. Because he has determined that they belong to him, their blood is his.
He warns us that doing damage to them, means that we are crucifying him and consuming him. If the rich do not given the poor their Sabbath and their release, the rich are consuming the poor, and they are accruing for themselves ed a debt that they cannot pay. Only Christ can prevent this ‘cup of the wrath of the nations’ from becoming the cup of judgment that we have to drink down. Only Christ can save us from the judgment of all those whose lives we have squandered and consumed. The Church has to hear the Scripture: Why are your robes all red, O Lord, and your garments like theirs who
tread the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me.’ (Canticle Isaiah 63.1-9)
Only Christ can redeem their lives. Only Christ can redeem them from oblivion in the maw of the global economy. Only God can forgive. He release them from their entrapment in the products that their labour has created, but from which they have never benefited. Only Christ can pay the ransom by which I may be released from my debt to them, and they may receive payment for all their labour. We have consumed them. If Christ does not pay them what we have not paid them, what we have not paid for will finally overtake and consume us. Only if they are redeemed and released from us, are we redeemed from them. Only if their lives are restored to them will there be life for us. So we pray:
Lord, have mercy on us
6. The Eucharist as the judgment of God
Consumption as public idolatry
God can extricate us from our vast and unresolvable debts to one another. He can release the rich from the poor, the consumer from the consumed, Dives from Lazarus. Our debts to one another are deep and they are unavoidable. We owe many people, unseen and unacknowledged, for the existence even of our own bodies. We have no existence without the labour of many people we will never meet or be able to thank. If we do not acknowledge our debts we accrue more debt than we can pay. If we do not give our worship to God, we give ourselves away to other gods. Idolatry means giving yourself away to other those gods and thereby constituting them as gods and thereby actively and culpably deceive and consume other people. They belong to God, and if we consumer what is God's without receiving it from Christ, we are robbers and vandals. We yourself are filling the cup of judgment that will overflow and overtake you, so you will finally drink it all down yourself. The cup from the Lord's hand is coming round to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done will overwhelm you, for you have shed man’s blood (Habakkuk 2.15). Only the Lord God can release us from this debt. And he has provided forgiveness through this shedding of the blood of Jesus. This forgiveness is able to release from all the multiple debts and bonds in which we all caught up. So we sing: We have redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, According to the riches of your grace,
which you have lavished upon us (Canticle 43 Ephesians 1. 3-10) It this freedom from our rapacious consumption of one another is what the Church celebrates in the thanksgiving of every eucharist. Only Christ’s eucharist will redeem us from our consumption and destruction of one another. The Christian people know that this release and forgiveness is there to be called upon, and they publicly and repeatedly call upon it, and they sing: Now I sink before thee lowly, Filled with joy most deep and holy, As with trembling awe and wonder On thy mighty works I ponder; How by mystery surrounded, Depths no man has ever sounded None may dare to pierce unbidden Secrets that with thee are hidden (Franck NEH 280)
6 Whole People – Misery and Dignity
The body of Christ provides us with a life-long series of encounters with the communion of the saints, and through them with the whole world. The world becomes the form of our transformation, and the communion of saints becomes the form of its transformation. 1. The people of God stand The Christian people walk and stand and worship together. They do so before this society so that they are seen and heard by it. This is the commission given to the Church. This mission is the fundamental purpose of the Church, so evangelism, being the witness of God to society, is not an add-on. It is for their sake that we are here, setting out the truth and grace of Christ as the truth for man. The Church is the wall that protects society from despair, and we, who are the watchers on this wall, point our society to its coming Lord. So the Church sings: Soldiers of Christ arise and put your armour on strong in the strength which God supplies through his eternal Son… Strong in the Lord of hosts And in his mighty power (533 Wesley) We are the ‘Soldiers of Christ’. But this army does not throw anything, but simply marches and stands. It takes the in-coming missiles thrown by a hurting world. Its armour is the truth, the faith and the Word of God (Ephesians 6.11-17). These are all the defence it has or needs. This army sings and offers the word of God. It tells the world that it does not need to throw these missiles, but it does so because it is in pain, and it is in pain because it is fighting the inevitability of its own repentance. The Church may look as though it will soon break and disappear, but it never is broken. This is what the world finds so exasperating and even offensive
about it. The Church simply stands, and will do forever. This is why our beloved Victorian hymn-writers make so much use of the words ‘yet’ and ‘still’: they mean ‘always’ and unchangingly. With them we sing ‘dwell’, ‘abide’ and stay with us, Lord. We proclaim his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension. The Church is the salt that protects a society from decay, and the leaven that keeps truth and hope percolating through that society. 2. Christ is the truth of humanity The Christian gospel says that man is good. What is good is man. In his unity of body and soul, man is good. He is the creation of God and the creature called and loved by God. The integrity of man is secured for us and held out to us by God. God is the true lover of mankind. He is the guardian of the integrity of the human being and as such is our salvation. In the economy of God the human being is being formed and brought to maturity, and each of us is being brought into relationship with all others. When we say ‘man’ we mean all men, for they are all the creatures of God and the gifts that God has given to us. For this reason the Christian gospel is our hope. So to this society the Church says that man is the creature of God, and that God protects man, and those who harm man pitch themselves ultimately against God. To business and commerce the Church says that the proper product of the economy is – man. The Church says that what is finally good are not these commodities, goods, services or ‘values’, but man, whom they all serve. The Church points out that our labour is tested and redeemed by the labour of God which brings all things to us as gifts that may only be received with thanksgiving. Man will be sustained and established because he is the product of the labour and the patience of God. The integrity and dignity of man, and the uniqueness of each particular human being, may therefore be the goal of all our effort and labour because it is fundamentally given to us, as the gift of God. The goods we work for are the good provision for man. But they may also be substitutes for man and compensations; they may tempt us to look away from man, and no longer to see him as the image of God, and the gift of God given to us. They may transfer our affections elsewhere to other creations of our own imagination, and so to supplant and to fail to see him as our neighbour. So the Church says, ‘Come buy what has no price’, and it confesses: We have not loved you with our whole heart Nor our neighbours as ourselves Lord be merciful: forgive us our sin. 3. Despair and doubt – Man against himself Man is made free. Freedom makes man the image of God, the counterpart of God. The Lord invites us to have freedom together with him. Freedom is not freedom from something or other, because what we are freedom from is always given to us or imposed to us. If it were, every new circumstance would put us on the back foot, so we are always backing off and afraid of what is coming next and fear makes us unfree. Freedom is accompanied by love.
Man wonders whether he hears any voice but his own. Could he hear God? Would God speak, and to him? Along with all creation he squirms there in an agony of anticipation. What is he being called to? Can God really turn creation into a willing partner, able to speak back and to decide freely with God and to receive God’s work as good? God will judge us. We may not preempt that judgment. Fear makes us want to hide from any other judgment. This secular eschatology comes as the self-abasement of despair or the selfexalting of limitless mastery through technology. We may despair, we may doubt, reject and defy. But when our despair has run its course, God will still be here, and we may begin again. Man holding out against man Man is tempted to believe that he is alone in the world. We are tempted to turn in on ourselves and give up. Our reservations towards the gospel come from fear. This fear can turn to rage or into resignation, and both can be given the most sophisticated and dignified expressions. Atheism is a form of panic or madness, badly covered up: it suggests that man has suffered a great disappointment. But man has not been disappointed but is only afraid of being disappointed. The result of taking on the many of the images paraded before us by the secular liturgy is that each of us individually can feel overwhelmed and powerless. We may avoid this it by surrendering regularly to Christ the burden of demands made on us by the entertainment industries and represented by these images. Depression isolates us, making us believe that we are the only one who cannot cope. So we pray for each who suffers depression, and we go to find each individual who has dropped out of sight. The psalm says:
I called to you, O God, out of my distress And you brought up my life from the depths, O God. As my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, O God, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
So we pray, and go back to the company of Christ’s people, and lay down in front of that altar. The answer to despair is to find someone to love. We can love and serve those around us. We can love and marry and together find our place among the Lord’s people. We may sing: O Lord, your tenderness Melting all my bitterness O Lord I receive your love. O Lord your loveliness, Changing all my ugliness…(Source 402) And we pray:
in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our frail bodies that they may be conformed to his glorious body
4. Disdain for the Church Christ considers the people of his kingdom to be his glory. The glory of a king is the troops who follow him in the parade. Christ has adopted as his troops all those despised and overlooked people which no other king reckoned worth 129
having. Christ considers them his glory; we dare not consider them in any other way. If we see only the inadequacy of the Church, we are not yet looking at it as it will be. We must repentance in order to receive the Church as it truly is, as Christ’s. The members of the Church are the non-negotiable form in which Christ comes to us. We have to receive them from him. They are Jesus, directly before us, but disguised. There is no way to him other than through them. In this very trying character, they are the hardness and difficulty of Jesus to us. We may not try to avoid them or control them. We may not distance ourselves from any part of the Church, or decide that it is too oldfashioned, too boring, too quiet, too loud or in any other way unacceptable. Our identification of this or that part of the Church as too exclusivist, traditionalist and fundamentalist is what divides and rends the Body of Christ. This is just a desire to distance ourselves from those who have had fewer chances and less education than ourselves. To denigrate any part of the Church is to despise Christ and to fail to acknowledge that these people belong to Christ (that they have his protection) and that they are the ‘poor’. We have to regard these people as our preparation for Christ, and master our exasperation in order to receive them. We have to sing:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessèd are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessèd are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Rejoice and be glad for you are the light of the world, and great is your reward in heaven (Canticle 36 A SONG OF THE BLESSED Matthew 5. 3-10)
In each of these unlovely people at the altar rail Christ says to us, ‘Do you see me, do you love me’? If they are the weak, we who are the strong have to wait for them. For if we go ahead ‘without waiting for anyone else’, we fail to ‘recognise the body of the Lord’, and so eat and drink division on the Church and judgment on ourselves. Then the Church becomes victim to a selfhatred, except that it is directed against the whole body, and thus against those least able to stand it. The degree to which we find one another unattractive and not very Christ-like is the result of the dark and incomprehensible way in which Christ presents himself, crucifying all our expectations. To sneer at any part of the Church is to despise Christ. Our identification of this or that part of the Church as too liberal, or too evangelical, too traditionalist, too fundamentalist, too narcissistic is simply failure to identity the body of Christ and so refusal to receive him. To this end we need to learn the virtue of patience and suffering and intellectual discipleship. We need to go to school with every other form of churchmanship and be taught by them. However poor in spirit and in understanding of the gospel any congregation is, however frankly mean-spirited, we have to recognise them as his. They are the weak brother for whom Christ died. If they are the weak and we are the strong, it is we who have to be patient with them wait for them. For if we go 130
ahead ‘without waiting for anyone else’, we fail to ‘recognise the body of the Lord’, and so eat and drink division on the Church and judgment on ourselves. But the more repugnant they are, the more likely it is that Christ locates himself there, in them, for you. You have to embrace them as Christ, and you have to take their dislike and rejection of you. We have to learn the hard discipline of taking these people as the very gift and appearance of Christ. It is in this form that Christ has emptied himself, and in this form only that that we may and must receive Christ. 5. Christ unrecognised and the darkness of the cross Christ is exalted. But we see his exaltation only as this descent and abasement. Christ is seated in glory. He is seen in the epiphanies seen by Moses, Isaiah and Daniel; he burns with the fire of holiness, the divine figure who sometimes appears as a mountain of fire, or tree of fire, the burning bush. But to us the bright and holy one appears as this figure on the cross, and so as this horror, from whom we want to look away. The Lord whom they saw, high and lifted up, appears to us only as the man on the cross, redolent of death and morbidity. This epiphany appears as something disgusting. He appears to be a man being overpowered and reduced to nothing before our eyes by some unspeakable force. To the unholy he is recognisable only as this image of horror, unholy, unacceptable. So the Church that points to this sight appears to belong to an ancient and incomprehensible past, redolent of dark powers, and therefore as something that modern man has nothing to do with. For all the world it looks as though the Church has been abandoned and destitute. We sit in these ashes. This is the judgment of the world. Could it be right? Could this also be the judgment of God? Will God confirm the judgment of the pagans on the Church? If the Lord has turned away, the light is going and the world will become a more hostile place to everyone in it. We pray:
In the midst of life we are in death Where can we turn for help? Only to you Lord Who are justly angered by our sins. Holy God Holy and strong, holy and immortal Have mercy on us.
We have to beg the Lord to avert or reverse this judgment, demand and plead that he stay with us, and not leave us. We have to beg the Lord not to let us have the results of our failure, for this would be more punishment than we could take. We have to ask him the Lord not to let us have all the consequences of our action. The punishment that we could survive would be that he gives up on us, takes this blessing away from us, and take away this privilege of being his witnesses, and abandon us, so that there is then no Church in this country. So we plead:
Shut not your ears to our prayers But spare us, O Lord Holy God
Holy and strong, holy and immortal Have mercy on us.
The Church is given to the world in order to serve it. It may do this by telling the world what and indeed who it is, telling it that Christ recognises and knows it and is there to secure its identity. When it does not pass on Christ, the true bread, the Church betrays the world, leaving it exposed to the predators, so that the world is the body that is broken and bleeding. Our society and nation is only one society, a united society because the gospel has taught it so. When there is no gospel and the witness of the Church disappears, society divides until there is no society but only rival tribes again. It will be a society that resents the young and the old and regards them as burdens it does not need. Our society will be become different societies identifiable by age-groups, each of which organises itself against the others. So we confess: We have lived by our own strength and not by the power
of your resurrection. In your mercy forgive us. Lord hear and help us.
6. Mary adores Christ Mary looks at Jesus. She does so single-mindedly, unwaveringly, unhesitatingly. Jesus sustains her by his look, and so it is that she can return his gaze. ‘Gazing at Jesus’ and ‘Adoring Jesus’ is what Mary does. She receives, she ponders, she treasures these things in her heart. Mary looks down at her infant or up at this Son on the cross. As a result she is filled up with Christ, and his glory and radiance shines out of her, and so she is a picture of we may be. Mary is therefore the figure of the Church. Every Christian is being transformed and transfigured by the holiness of Christ. We can follow the direction of her eyes and let our gaze be drawn by hers towards Christ, so we may become Christ-adorers. We can adore Christ with Mary. And we may look at any and every woman as latently Christ-adorers. We can encourage man to see every woman in this way. We can beg them to respect and honour themselves as those who have received their honour from Christ, who looks at them unwaveringly. We beseech them to regard themselves as those who may be filled with the radiance that comes from God. We sing: Blessed she by all creation, who brought forth the world's salvation, and blessed they, for ever blest, who love thee most and serve thee best. Virgin-born, we bow before thee; blessed was the womb that bore thee; Mary, Mother meek and mild, blessed was she in her Child (Heber) Mary is an image of ourselves, gratefully receiving the Lord and so she is an image of the whole Church, male and female. Mary received the Lord and held him in her own arms for us, and we may have this same privilege of receiving the Lord in our own hands for the world. Mary is the image of woman redeemed, so she is the exemplary woman and our defence against all the other images of the ideal woman. Mary is our fellow pilgrim. She is sanctified and so she is Saint Mary because she points away from herself to
Christ. She bears him and lifts him up and presents him to us. She bore him as a child, and when it was taken down from the cross she held his lifeless body again. So we sing: O that blessed one, grief-laden blessed mother, blessed maiden mother of the all-holy One of that silent ceaseless mourning of those dim eyes, never turning from that wondrous, suffering Son (97) Mary is an image of the whole Christian people who hold Jesus out to the world. We present him as he gives himself, utterly putting himself into our hands as utterly as a baby. Our hands grasped him, and tore him and put him to death. With Mary, our hands held his lifeless body and we ask God to save him and redeem him from us. Mary As the Church walks through the streets of our city it sees hundreds of images of women. The Church asks whether any of these can be seen as Mary, the woman who points us to Christ and who is with the Lord. Each image of woman that we are offered presents the product sold by those businesses. We lament that Mary is being stripped and parcelled up and so despised. We lament that her Lord has been taken away from her leaving Mary bereft. She is an image of this generation and of this nation. We pray for those of our leaders who are tempted to try to take Christ away from us and to replace him with these many substitutes. As we walk past the massage parlours and strip clubs in which the body of woman is gazed on, and in which the individual women are slowly stripped and broken by that ferocious but helpless male gaze. The men who gaze helplessly bleed out through their eyes, transfixed by the bodies that are paraded past them, and failing to love them truly. Those women are not free: some of them have been traded and held here against their wills. The men are equally enslaved for as long as the entertainment industries control them to their passions. As long as they look at women in this way men are not free either. Neither woman nor man is free as long as we only look and gaze at what cannot withstand our needy and consuming gaze. The entertainment industries see us as dislocated parts, as bodies and passions. They offer to save us and satisfy us and to put us back to again, through their service. They offer a form of salvation, through union with the body of this woman or man. They suggest that we will achieve re-integration, to make us whole again through communion with this body. We say that the ‘love industries’ are cruel deceptions. We say that it is only by offering to put us together again that they are breaking us apart. in oWe say that you cannot find love in a moment, but need never work at it, and never need stick at a relationship. The proper adoration of the whole person of the woman abused in this woman. We should regard every woman as a Christ-adorer, and as made whole by Christ’s love. So: Sing of Mary, blest is she! Mother of the Saviour!
‘Yes!’ said she to Gabriel's plea, ‘Yes!’ to God forever. ‘Yes!’ for every woman born. ‘Yes!’ for every nation. ‘Yes!’ for even the unborn. ‘Yes!’ for all creation (Uher 97) Mary is not like those many women portrayed for us by the entertainment industry. She will not be consumed up by the gaze we place her under. There each woman is a double figure of the image of the woman who is on the top of the world, and of the woman who was on top of the world last year but who used up by our consuming gaze, is now replaced by a new and younger image. But Mary stands at the foot of the cross and looks up. We sing:
At the cross her station keeping stood the mournful mother weeping close to Jesus at the last through her soul of joy bereaved bowed with anguish deeply grieved now at length the sword hath passed
Because her gaze is on her Son, Mary is always renewed. She lives from the love of Christ, and she reflects his gaze to us. No one who lives from the adoring gaze of Christ and is filled with it and reflects that adoration will ever be consumed. 7. What do we see in Church? What we see in Church teaches us what to see outside church, in our offices and business and the streets of our cities. Man is with God, for God is with man. But everywhere we see only the man who cannot bear to be with God and man-who-imagines-he-is-without-God. Each person we see strangely sees him or herself only as man-on-their-own, and so as man-without-God. We have to tell them that God is with them, and that they are therefore manwith-God. We have to tell them that the glory of God shines on them and into them, and even shines back out of them again to us. This is the view we see. But to say so and to see it so, takes practise, and so in Church we re-calibrate our eyesight and practise this new vision. What do we see in Church? We see two views, one above the other. Let us imagine that as we enter Church we see a giant screen. But as have come a long way up the aisle towards the altar into the Church you begin to see that there is another screen above it. From the back of the Church you can only see the lower screen, so until you would never know that there is another vaster screen above it. The lower screen shows us the cross, and all the action of the passion and death of Jesus. There is Jesus crucified. He is in that place of utter and final abandonment. There lamenting is his mother Mary, and John and Mary Magdalene, each frozen in their own misery. Christ’s killers look on each also a rictus of pain, and there further back are the people of Jerusalem, their faces revealing grief and shock; behind them are the Gentiles, their faces showing rage and fear. Christ crucified is an image of the compressed violence and pain of the world. Christ on the cross is Christ ‘according to the flesh’, that is, as the world judges. This corresponds to the
way that the world sees Christ as this ambiguous lonely figure far back then in the past. When you get really close to this violence of the cross, you can see the other image above it. High up above it here is the second image, of Christ who has overcome death and is risen, Christ victorious and glorious. The second image shows Christ in glory also portrays us there with him and around him. This is a view of our future, or rather it is the image of the question of our future? Are we with him? Then we are with him there, where he is with us – on that cross. What is the relationship of the two images on the two screens? Christ in glory comes to us in the form of this figure of Jesus incarnate, and suffering and finally crucified. Now imagine that as you come into Church these two images superimpose themselves before you, like a hologram. You see Christ, high and lifted up, but each time you take a step nearer, you find only that the exalted Lord moves further away. Now as you look your whole view seems to be downwards, as though the floor of the Church sloped rapidly down before you and any step towards the altar is a step down this slope towards ignominy, isolation, distress and suffering. This is how our progress towards resurrection is – it is a descent, into this passion. The lower screen, in which Christ on the cross, shows us how we may receive Christ glorified. As we look through this horror it will be revealed that this is not his horror or violence but our own, and yet now no longer our own either, because he has taken it from us. As we continue to look at this figure on the cross, it becomes clear that he is not isolated or abandoned, but rather that the cross exalts him and is his throne. He is entirely and confidently with the Father, and the Spirit fortifies him and surrounds him with whole company of heaven, who know him and are glad. With Christ all this good company has poured itself into the narrow compass of man, and into the unimaginably alien form of man isolated from all creation and made unrecognisable by death. Though he goes through this alien form for our sake Christ and all his company are indissolubly united in the communion of God. Man is no longer isolated, or defaced and disfigured, but redeemed and glorified. In Christ God is glorifying man. According to the canticle from Revelation: Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, From every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and had palms in their hands, and they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And we pray: May God in his infinite love and mercy bring the whole Church, living and departed in the Lord Jesus, to a joyful resurrection and the fulfilment of his eternal kingdom