Sermon preached by The Reverend Charles Royden from Luke 14
has been said that the role of the preacher is 'to afflict the comfortable and
comfort the afflicted.'
If you take a look at the small picture on Partnership News this week you will see Jesus speaking words which do just that and if you want a text fro this sermon then it would have to be those words of Jesus
“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted..”
I am sure that we all have stories of hearing somebody say
‘Do you know who I am?’
Do you realise who you are speaking to?’
The inference being that if everybody knew who the person was then they would be treated better.
Sadly of course this is often the case, people are often treated differently, better than others. Society has ways of differentiating and making some people of higher status than others and many people crave status.
Let’s think about the corporate sin which we see all too frequently in this regard
I was disappoiunted to read this weekend about Paul Drayson who gave the Labour party £505,000 - six weeks after the the PM made him Lord Drayson of Kensington in May. His donation was disclosed in accounts of all the political parties' funding, published by the Electoral Commission yesterday.
It is the second time Drayson's generosity to the Labour Party has proved controversial. Two years ago, he gave the party £50,000 while his company Powderject made an estimated £20million profit from a contract to become the Government's sole supplier of the smallpox vaccine. The Government had rushed to stock up on the drug in the wake of the September 11 attacks when fear grew that terrorists could launch a chemical attack on Britain. The decision was criticised because the deal was not put out to tender and rival firms said they were excluded from bidding.
Government documents later disclosed that the MoD wanted to buy from rivals. But they discovered that Powderject had cornered the market just in time by signing an exclusive distribution contract with a European manuf acturer. Ministers have insisted there was no connection between the donations and the contract.
Lord Drayson has donated a total of £100,000 to Labour in the past, but his previous donations are dwarfed by the money he handed over in June.
Three years ago he won a Government contract to supply TB vaccines as well as the deal to supply smallpox vaccines. Ministers insisted there was no connection between the donations and any contracts.
But the smallpox deal was mired in accusations of sleaze because Lord Drayson gave a £50,000 donation to Labour while the Government was deciding who should be given the contract.
It later emerged that Lord Drayson had been in a group of businessmen who had breakfast-with the Prime Minister in Downing Street at about the time MoD experts were meeting to decide what type of vaccine to buy.
No 10 has always denied the subject of the vaccine came up during the breakfast, but the coincidence fuelled concern that Mr Blair's links with supportive businessmen could expose him to controversy.
After selling his company last summer, Lord Drayson described himself as
"a very successful guy through my own hard work".
We all know that it goes on but it makes our government and our country look seedy and any belief that our so called democracy is better than other types of government in other countries and that we have aright to export it, needs to be taken very carefully.
Money buys influence and votes and this kind of thing is shabby.
We see it not just in secular society, some of you will remember a few years ago I was involved in the debate over whether bishops should be paid more than the clergy.
I was telephoned by this chap early one morning and had a nice conversation in which I informed him of my views, no need to pay bishops more, no reason why they need more bathrooms, etc. At the end of the conversation He said his name was Mr Humphries and I had been on BBC Radio 4.
But I really cannot see any justification for bishops being paid more salary or having more pension than an ordinary priest. To do so is only about some career structure which I would see as contrary to the Gospel. It was interesting to note that this subject of rewarding clergy equally was raised again in Synod, perhaps it is only a matter of time before changes are made.
Luke in his Gospel has a forceful message about those who seek status and who want to have positions of power, wealth and prestige.
Think of the Magnificat in Luke Chapter 1
And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."
This is a theme of Luke, it is a Gospel for the poor, the downtrodden the meek, those who have little status are encouraged to recognise that God values them.
It is important for us Christians to speak the words of Jesus about the value of all people. We are not to be people who are persuaded by human greatness, or intimidated by ambitious people who have climbed to the top of their ladders.
We should consider all people equal, irrespective of social status or lack of it.
This is teaching which is made explicit in the words of Jesus in Luke today
Meals and hospitality play a critical role for Jesus and his followers. The disciples are people who have received hospitality and reclined at table with Jesus and so they must be like their Master and offer similar hospitality to others, especially the poor and outcast.
Jesus must have noticed in the Pharisee's home the scramble for prime places at the meal. So Jesus peaks about how our human values of importance are turned upside down.
The last shall be first.
For most of his life Albert Einstein had the portraits of two scientists, Newton and Maxwell, hanging on his wall as role models to inspire him. Toward the end of life, however, he took them down and replaced them with portraits of Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi. He needed new role models, he said—not of success, but of humble service.
Perhaps nowhere is this message made more forcefully than in the meal which Jesus gave to his disciples to remember him. We are not invited to this meal because of our social standing or birthright. We are here in honoured first places because through Jesus, God has called us up to places of dignity.
At this meal we who eat are transformed by Christ's passion and resurrection. Here we are reminded of our baptismal identity as alive in Christ and partners in his work to transform the world.
Gratuitous love is the sign of God's presence in the world. That is nowhere made more evident for us than at this table as we partake of this special meal.
Nobody who eats this bread and drinks this wine is any better person than anybody else. We are all here only by the grace and mercy of God. Amen.
All-powerful God, you humbled yourself to become human and gave up your place of honour to take our place on the cross. Open our eyes to ways we can offer ourselves for others. Strengthen and encourage us to be content with what we have and to do our best for your glory. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen