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A sermon delivered at the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis, Gordon, New South Wales, Australia, on 15 July 2007, being the Sixth Sunday after Trinity - Copyright Ian Ellis-Jones 2007 - All Rights Reserved.

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  1. 1. STEADFAST SERVICE A sermon delivered at the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis, Gordon, New South Wales, Australia, on 15 July 2007, being the Sixth Sunday after Trinity by The Rev. Dr Ian Ellis-Jones “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’” (Mt 16:24)Today is the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, with the intent “Steadfast Service”.Our Gospel reading is taken from the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesusspeaks about what some have called the “Anonymous Christ”. Now, in theLiberal Catholic Church we have had all different types of Christs over the years… Jesus Christ, the Master Christ, the Living Christ, the Cosmic Christ, and, ofcourse, the Lord Maitreya. I am aware that some of those are or may be said tobe one and the same. It doesn’t matter. However, here we have another Christ,the “Anonymous Christ”, but, in a sense it is the same Living Christ from whom orwhich we claim to draw the central inspiration of our work.In this Gospel passage Jesus refers to himself in the third person as the “Son ofMan”. Now, that is the title most used by Jesus - indeed over 60 times - and usedonly by Jesus himself to describe himself. However, those words do not implythat Jesus was claiming to be God. Jesus never really explains the meaning ofthe title “Son of Man”, but it appears to be linked with what he saw as his missionin life, for Jesus saw himself as a representative human being through whomGod was acting in an important way. There is no doubt that Jesus believed hehad a special message, and it was tied up with his understanding of what ismeant by the “Kingdom of God”, which I’ll come to shortly.
  2. 2. 2Jesus, we are told, was “a man approved of God” (Acts 2:22, emphasis added).He himself preached what is described in the New Testament as the “Gospel ofGod” (Mk 1:14). He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is athand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15; cf Mt 4:17, 10:7, Lk 4:43).Note, not the “Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, but the “Gospel of God”. This isthe answer to all those Christian evangelists who would have us believe thatthere was no “Christian Gospel” until after Jesus had died.Now, Jesus may not be God in any exclusive or unique sense, but he mustsurely be more than a teacher and moral exemplar. Yes, he is much more thanthat. Our Gospel reading for today tells us that the Personality of Jesus, throughwhom the Living Christ expresses Itself, can be experienced as a livingpresence, for he comes to us, and visits us, in our home and in our community.Yes, the Christ comes to us through an idea, a word we hear, and a person whois suffering or joyful. We meet this Christ in our interactions with others. Everyonewe meet, everyone we serve, is in the image of Jesus. Roman Catholicsunderstand this so much better than Protestants. Yes, the Anonymous Christ, asit is known, comes to us in so many ways, and we fail to recognize that Jesus’incarnation, the very manifestation and Self-expression of the Living Christ,continues all the time, in us and in other people. We read in Matthew 25:34-40: Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
  3. 3. 3Jesus’ followers were originally known as “people of the way”. Jesus, in his visionof the Anonymous Christ, offers us a vision and a challenge. The call to follow isnot a call to worship Jesus. He never sought nor wanted that. No, the Way ofJesus is a call to follow his path, to live as he lived, and to serve. “Steadfastservice” is the Intent for today. The word “steadfast”, according to The MacquarieDictionary, means, among other things, “fixed in direction”, “firm in purpose,resolution, faith, attachment”, and “unwavering”. Now, in the words of our Collectfor today we are to show forth our love of and for God in “continual service of ourbrethren”. That requires strong faith in the Omnipresence and Omnipotence ofGod, firm resolution and a genuine desire on our part to be of real service toothers as Jesus was in his lifetime.We read in John’s Gospel, “Sir, we would see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). This Churchhas always focused, quite properly, more on the Living Christ than on the Jesusof history. Nevertheless, the man Jesus was, indeed is, the embodiment of“steadfast service”. As far as I’m concerned, all we really need to know aboutJesus and what is, or at least ought to be, our vision and challenge, can be foundin one verse of the Bible, namely, Luke 9:11, which reads: When the crowds learned [where Jesus was], they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing.First, the crowds followed Jesus. The Lord Christ continues to speak to our time,saying, “Follow me”. One of my favourite Christian books is In His Steps writtenby Congregational minister Charles M Sheldon and first published in 1896.Sheldon, a leading exponent of the Social Gospel, challenges us to askourselves, in every situation in which we find ourselves placed, “What wouldJesus do?” That’s a good start, for, as Markus van Alphen has written, Jesus,metaphysically, “stands for the personality of every human being who treads thepath of purification” (“Jesus Christ and his True Disciples”, Esoteric ChristianityE-Magazine, July 2002, <>).
  4. 4. 4Secondly, Jesus welcomed the crowds. No one was turned away. That is why wedo not turn away any person who comes here with good intentions. That is whywe erect no barriers around our altars. However, more is required of us than that.We must make sure we erect no barriers outside this place as well.Thirdly, Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God. That kingdom was not of this world(see Jn 18:36), for Jesus gave the words “Kingdom of God” new meaning. TheKingdom of God, for Jesus, was a spiritual kingdom, not a physical organization,and it was both a present and future reality all at the same time. Jesus formed acommunity that strove, in steadfast service, to be a living model of God’s reign.We accept the Kingdom of God by building it here on earth. Thus, the Kingdomof God, sensibly interpreted, is not some supernatural event that will supposedlycome to pass when this world comes to an end but a kingdom of this world inwhich there is justice, equality and freedom for all.Fourthly, Jesus cured those who needed healing. Our task here is to provideopportunities for healing. We come here as broken, damaged people in need ofhealing. The healing word of Jesus, expressed most powerfully in his greatoutpouring of suffering love which, in all respects, is the very same ongoingcosmic sacrifice of the Living Christ, still has the power to change lives.I am reminded of something the Presbyterian Samuel Angus wrote in hiswonderful book Jesus in the Lives of Men (1933): Jesus is not accredited to us today by his miracles, or by a virgin birth, or by a resurrection from an underworld, or by a reanimation of his body from the grave, or by fulfillment of prophecies; he is accredited by his long train of conquests over the loyalties of men, and chiefly by the immediate, intimate and inevitable appeal made by him to everything that is best and God-like in each of us, and by his ability to “make men fall in love with him”, and “to win the world to his fair sanctities”.Out of gratitude to God, we are told in our Epistle reading (taken from Romans12) to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice”. We do that by living selflessly forothers and, as a result, we not only encounter the Anonymous Christ, we also
  5. 5. 5share our saving experience of the Anonymous Christ with those with whom wecome into contact. The message of the apostle Paul, and Jesus himself, is thatwe must re-surrender and rededicate ourselves every day, “fervent in spirit,serving the Lord” (Rom 12:11). We must remain ever open to truth and everwilling to change, no matter what. We must work, in steadfast service, to bringabout the Kingdom of God on earth. Amen. -oo0oo-