Sermon for Evensong & Benediction Sunday 24 February 2019
Sermon preached by Fr Simon Cuff, St Mellitus College
‘And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good’.
Words from our first reading, the book of genesis, the first chapter, the 31st verse. It’s sometimes hard to believe that God looked upon the newly created order and saw that it wasn’t just good, but very good. The subsequent chapters of Genesis provide the beginnings of the overarching narrative of the Old Testament. The creation that God saw as very good turns against his will. Angels fall. Humans sin. Creation is no longer ordered as God intended. From time to time God spectacularly intervenes to restore order to the chaos to which creation ever threatens to return. And repeat. The people of God forget him, they turn to satisfying their own interests and desires. They sin. And repeat.
In to this cycle of despair, steps God himself. Or rather, whimpers. He is born as one of us. In time, he will die for all of us. He will send his Spirit into the Church to sustain until his coming again. The Sacrament we’ve celebrated today, the Mass, is that gift of the Spirit which sustains us more than any other. As we adore the Sacrament during Benediction in a few moments we give thanks to God for that gift. And we’re reminded that this gift teaches us how to live in that creation which God once regarded as very good. It reminds us that we do not just live in a fallen world, but in a world that has begun the process of restoration of all things in Christ. Bread and wine, material things, elements of creation are themselves taken up to become vehicles of divine presence; to be given to us as gift. We are given the insight that all of creation is gift, that if we regard all creation as gift we will begin to live in creation in that ‘very good’ way God intended. ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them’. God has given us what we need. God will give us what we need. Storing up things for ourselves, keeping our money and our possessions for ourselves repeats the mistakes of the past, as we store up our things in a way that God does not intend. God gives us what we need. All the things we have are gift. And he calls us to be transformed into to those who become givers of that which we have been given.
Rowan Williams sums this up: ‘The eucharist hints at the paradox that material things carry their fullest meaning for human minds and bodies – the meaning of God’s grace and of the common life thus formed – when they are the medium of gift, not instruments of control or objects of accumulation.’ As we gaze on the gift of the Sacrament in a few moments, as we give thanks for that gift which sustains in all that we do, what gift is God asking to give back to him? What is he calling us to share with others to restore that goodness to creation which comes from keeping what we’ve been given to ourselves? What gift is he calling you to give tonight, this week, for the rest of your life?