Sunday, 16 February 2014

3rd Sunday before Lent

Writing to the church in Corinth, St Paul reminds his readers then and now that the Christian faith is something different. Christianity doesn't fit neatly into the existing order of things, it does not sit comfortably with received ideas, it certainly isn't " a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age". In fact, if the rulers of this age had the slightest grasp on the wisdom that comes from God, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory".

St Paul is quite clear here, and elsewhere, that Christian belief is on a collision course with Empire. In signing up to life in Christ, his readers place themselves outside of the mainstream, commit themselves to a way of seeing the world that is likely to make them stick out like a sore thumb, to place them in awkward positions, and to force them to challenge many features of the world around them. And this calling would be a familiar one to any of his readers - probably many of them - with a good grounding in the scriptures. It is the calling to be prophetic.

As in Paul's day, so in our own. Christians are called to not fit in! We see the world in the light of the future Kingdom, through which God in Christ establishes justice, love, and peace. Because of this we should feel restless, we should end up disagreeing with much that we hear from our politicians and newspapers, and we should often find ourselves out-of-sync with fashionable ideas. We should be difficult, marginal, and, yes, prophetic.

There are, however, dangers here. It is all too easy to take the call to not fit it as an excuse to feel affirmed in whatever unpopular idea we happen to hold. I have no doubt that the bishops who drafted the House of Bishop's response to same-sex marriage, published yesterday, felt that they were prophetically standing up for the gospel, refusing to conform to 'the wisdom of the age'. Yet I myself see nothing of the good news in their attitude towards a good number of their own people and clergy. In fact, far from setting themselves against, 'the wisdom of the world', it seems to me that elements of the Church are in danger of aligning themselves with some of the most disturbing and bigoted elements of that world. The room for self-deception once we set ourselves up as prophets is real, and is something we need to recognise.

Yet we cannot escape from the call to be prophets. For all that it brings with it temptations, the call to be a prophet is one given to each of us at our baptism and one that we cannot escape. Not only that, our world needs prophets. So let us pray that we exercise this calling wisely and with discernment.

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