October 15, 2016
October 15, 2016
"The Church, standing firm in her old truths, enters into the apprehension of the new social and intellectual movements of each age: and because 'the truth makes her free,' is able to assimilate all new material, to welcome and give its place to all new knowledge, to throw herself into the sanctification of each new social order, bringing forth out of her treasures things new and old, showing again and again her power of witnessing under changed conditions to the catholic capacity of her faith and life.”
That was the English Bishop Charles Gore, writing in 1890. Lux Mundi, “Light of the World,” is the title. For me, Gore’s words have been a touchstone through years of ministry in a church that honors both stability and change. From generation to generation, applying ancient truth to changed conditions is our call.
Before Charles Gore there was Richard Hooker, who set the tone for our tradition under Queen Elizabeth I. According to him, there are laws both mutable and immutable in Christian faith: things that change and things that don’t. On the one hand, change in faithful practice is inevitable because social circumstances are in flux. As Hooker pointed out, even God’s laws, in some instances, are mutable. We see that in the Bible where, for example, circumcision comes and goes from Abraham to Paul. New occasions teach new duties, as we sometimes say.
But moral truth is stable, as Hooker explains, because it points to God, whose truth and goodness are immutable. In Christ, these qualities of God are visible. Christ is the star, therefore, by which we navigate through change. Hooker compares life to a journey down a road. Path surfaces are variable—the same road may change from grass to dirt to yellow bricks to stone. But because the road itself exists to take us to a certain destination, the underlying route won’t change.
There is always new construction on the surface of I-40, but the road from here to Memphis eternally runs east. So does the road to God. That’s the road we are on this morning. Christ, Lux Mundi, is our goal.
In tomorrow morning’s gospel reading, Jesus asks a question:
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
We don’t know when the Son of Man will come. I know that if he were to come today, he would find faith at Trinity Cathedral. In faith, this morning, Leigh and Linda sanctify their natural, loving inclinations within mature spiritual commitment. In faith, they bind their love by promises and vows. In faith, they seek God’s help in keeping them. Marriage prayers and promises are made to deepen, strengthen, natural loving inclinations. Like ropes and pitons securing climbers on a mountain, they catch us if we slip or fall.
As Marilynne Robinson writes: Love is what it amounts to, a loftier love. “Walk in love” Christ said. That’s the way to Memphis.
If Christ had come yesterday, last week, or last year, he would have found faith in Leigh and Linda. We’ve all seen it.
In you two, we have witnessed week in/week out Christian faithfulness in practice. When the roll is called on Sunday morning, you are in church. At the door, you welcome the disabled. To those who are sick, shut-in, or just discouraged, you offer solace. You have done this day by day, and week by week, and year by year.
Looking at you two I know this for a fact: If Jesus comes right this minute, landing right below these steps, he will find faith at Trinity Cathedral.
He has already come in spirit. When we stand, he comes as strength. When we grieve, he surfaces as solace. In our fluctuating hearts, he comes as peace. As grace, he is here to catch us when we slip or fall. In body, Jesus waits for us in Memphis. In spirit, he is our companion on the way.
In you, Leigh Cole and Linda Brown, Christ’s spirit has arrived.
Your twenty-seven years of devotion already demonstrate his lofty standard for faithfulness in marriage. Already, you know how to love through life’s ups and downs. Already, you know that married love blends discipline and passion, generosity and sacrifice, laughter and forgiveness. Already you know Christ who gives these qualities to marriage through his spirit that sustains them.
You know such things because after twenty-seven years together, while the world has changed you have been constant. You are not starting down the road to Memphis. You’ve been on it all those years. Today you are on the bridge in Prairie County, crossing the White River, still pointed east, into the rising sun.
I love that river. Atop the bridge, in all directions you can see for miles.
Turn around for a minute and look behind you. Take a moment to appreciate the view.