Hundreds of Anglicans gathered at Chrism services around the diocese over three nights this Holy Week. Chrism services offer us a chance to gather as diocesan family and experience the blessing of togetherness as we worship God and recommit to Him in our baptismal vows, and for those of us ordained, our ordination vows.
In Bishop Justin’s sermon, he spoke of the incredulity that the Jewish people could have gone from welcoming Jesus as their King to only five days later when they shouted “crucify him!” They wanted a king, he said, but they wanted a king who would come in political and military power and overthrow the Roman rulers, and Jesus turned His back on such violence.
In our modern society, little has changed. We have been inculturated to have a distaste for kings and for authority over us, Bishop Justin shared, but still with a need for someone to be in charge, we have appointed ourselves as “kings” over our own lives. “Each of us comes here tonight through a cultural narrative that says ‘you should be true to yourself. If you but follow your dreams, you can achieve anything. And if you need some help, just buy some of these products…. If you just buy the right deodorant, you can achieve anything you want!'”
Bishop Justin told us how in high schools, students are told ‘you are enough.’ But, he said, that’s not the Gospel. “The Gospel is I am never enough. I can never be enough. Only Jesus meeting me can be enough.”
Bishop Justin recounted a story from his time in Kolkata last year, where he volunteered in a home where he massaged men who were living with disability, and realised that in our Christian walk, the roles are reversed – we are the ones in the chair, and God is massaging us in all of our deformity and lack of beauty. “Then I suddenly realised, that’s the Gospel. It’s not me going to God, it’s God finding me.”
Bishop Justin referred to our theme this year of “leaning in as family.” He was once asked to define that, but relayed to us his response: you can’t define it, it’s a relational concept. If you have to define it, then you end up legislating for being together – instead of making a choice to be together because we are family, and that’s what families do.
“The challenge with the church is the church has become an orphanage where nobody knows their parent.”
As a group of people who behave like orphans, our ability to lean in is limited, Bishop Justin said. However, if we recognise God’s invitation to be adopted into relationship with him, then “out of that adopted relationship, we find Christ, and we find each other. But if we haven’t found that relationship with Christ, it’s very difficult for me to get on with you, because I’m constantly acting like an orphan who doesn’t know that I belong.”
Bishop Justin finished by encouraging us all to be open to God’s invitation into relationship. As the service moved towards the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, he reminded us that what we were reaffirming was that God has found us, and that we are responding to His love.
As we journey towards the Cross, may we all be open to God’s invitation and His radical grace, may we respond with grateful hearts, and may we – not as orphans, but as brothers and sisters – follow, worship and obey our King.
Bishop Justin’s full sermon is available here: