Saturday, May 21, 2016

Credo: Reflections on Belief (RCL Trinity Sunday C, 22 May 2016)

Reflections on Belief

RCL Trinity Sunday C
22 May 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
            On Saturday, the 31st of May 1980, I packed my car and drove to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I was to begin a three-month internship at Trinity Episcopal Church, one of the oldest congregations in the Diocese of Northern Indiana.  My cousin, Cory Randall, was the rector and, unbeknownst to me, had sent me a letter inviting me to preach on Sunday, the 1st of June, Trinity Sunday, at the main service.  The letter arrived just after I left campus, so I arrived Saturday afternoon blissfully unaware of what my first service at Trinity would bring.
            As we formed the procession into the church, Cory leaned over and said, ‘I am looking forward to your sermon.’  I thought he was joking, until I looked closely at the bulletin and saw ‘Sermon:  Richard Leggett’.  So, as the readers read and the psalm was chanted and the congregation sang, I came up with a sermon on what is traditionally the Sunday when tallying the preacher’s heresies is a popular pastime.  I have no idea what I said, but I can say that the congregation was encouraging and supportive.  One member, while remaining anonymous, paid for all my books during my final year in seminary.  Perhaps I preached so badly that she or he decided I needed as much help as possible.
            While I have no bones to pick about the quality of the seminary education I received, I do wish my professor of theology had given us the assignment that my colleague, Dr Sallie McFague, gave to her first-year theology students.  Their final assignment was to write their own ‘Credo’, Latin for ‘I believe’.  I’m sure that some students pushed the envelope of orthodox Christian belief, but for all of them it was an important step towards understanding their own faith as well as the faith that generations of Christians have proclaimed since the time of the apostolic community.
            There are many things that I could say to you today, but I want to share with you my ‘Credo’, my confession of faith.  I do so in the hopes that each one of you might take some time to write your own ‘Credo’.  Perhaps it will be one sentence long, perhaps a page, perhaps even longer.  You need not share it with another living soul, although I promise that, should you share it with me, I won’t count the heresies.  So here goes.
            I believe that all things, seen and unseen, known and unknown, were created by the conscious choice of the Source of all being, whom we call ‘God’.  While I value science and believe in its role in helping to understand the mystery of the universe we inhabit, science cannot answer the ‘why’ question.  Why does anything exist?  I believe that behind the Big Bang lies the loving purpose of a Creator who chooses to make room for us and for all creation, animate and inanimate.
            I believe that when a person meets Jesus of Nazareth, he or she meets the God who created all that is.  Over the centuries Christians have debated just how this is so, but what all Christians believe is that Jesus is ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God among us’.  If any human being wants to know what God is like, then all he or she needs to do is to read the Gospels.  These four perspectives on the ministry of Jesus, written in the years after that world-changing week in Jerusalem, help us to understand the God whom Jesus called ‘Abba’.
            I believe that God continues to work in and through creation through the Holy Spirit and is leading us towards the fulfillment of who we are called to be.  While there are Christians who seem to be willing to freeze God’s revelation in some golden age, whether the first four centuries, the reformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries or the anti-science movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I believe God is still revealing God’s very self to us in the here and now.  As the writer of the Proverbs tells us, God’s Wisdom cries out to us in the streets and in the market-places.
            I believe that God acts through human agents and invites us to work for justice, for compassion and for right relationships with one another, with creation and with God.  If there is a constant thread throughout the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, it is this:  whenever there is a crucial moment, God invites an individual or a people to be prophets, bearers of God’s word.  When God decides to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt, it is Moses who is invited to be God’s agent.  When God decides to become incarnate in time and space, it is Mary who is invited to bear the Christ Child.  When God decides to expand Christ’s mission beyond the Jerusalem community, it is the apostolic community who is invited to travel throughout the known world.
            I believe that the Christian people have a distinct role in God’s work of creation, redemption and final fulfillment.  As Anglican Christians we acknowledge our role in that work of creation, redemption and perfection to be five-fold:
  • to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;

  • to teach, baptize and nurture new believers;

  • to respond to human need by loving service;

  • to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation; and

  • to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. [1]

            This is what I believe.  These are the principles which shape my ministry as an ordained priest among you.  No doubt, there is more that I might say, but this is more than enough.  I hope that it gives you a window into my soul. 
            Now it is your turn.

[1] The Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion

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