The real presence of Christ in the community of the virtual Church

Mar 29, 2020 by

by Martin Sewell, Archbishop Cranmer:

This morning I want to depart from our Lectionary readings to offer a text which inspired a first-class sermon which I once heard at Rochester Cathedral. A few years ago, Bishop Chad Gandiya visited the Diocese and preached from the Book of Samuel, comparing the troubles of his homeland Zimbabwe to those of the nation of Israel in Samuel’s time.

Both predicaments had things in common. Both peoples were endangered; the Jewish people from the Philistines who shared the ambition to occupy the same land; the Zimbabweans were fearful of their own government. The people’s faith wobbled. The Jews faced imminent attack; the Zimbabweans had been locked out of their churches. Could their cohesion hold?

I need not labour the comparison to our current predicament long: you will know from the news, your own hearts, and your own experience, how we and those we love currently feel now that our former certainties have been turned upside down. Then, and now, people are fearful, the future is uncertain, and folks worry about isolation and how we will cope.

Samuel is the last and perhaps the greatest of the people known as the Jewish ‘Judges’.

Like a contemporary judge, they did resolve disputes, but an Old Testament Judge was was more than that: they were also wise men to whom the people looked for advice and leadership. After Samuel, the people said they wanted a king. They did not want Samuel to be the King, because his two sons were not seen as good king material. Hereditary kingship was wanted, but not if his sons were the price. Reluctantly, the story tells us, Samuel identifies an unlikely candidate for the role. First he chooses King Saul, and then, when he disappoints (as all leaders do), the young boy who becomes King David is selected. He is better, but still not perfect.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

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