Cheers, Rowan!

Rowan Williams

I was fortunate to be leading on a youth camp (proper camping, under canvas, in a field, in the rain) over the weekend, so I missed the ‘live’ Jubilee celebrations. I’ve been slowly working my way through the various bits and bobs, because deep down I am a bit of a royalist (hit me) and because I enjoy the spectacle. I was particularly interested in the sermon (link to text here) given by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at the thanksgiving service in St Pauls Cathedral. Its been criticised and praised by various people – publicly and privately amongst my friends and contacts.

I really rather liked it, to be honest!

The basic criticism, from some evangelicals, was that he didn’t share the Gospel. Arguably, it was a slightly wasted opportunity – but that was not the point of the service, and I honestly think that the Gospel WAS in Rowan’s sermon.

The service was one of thanksgiving for the work and life of our Queen – who has been on the throne for 60 years. It was not an evangelistic service – though any service should have an evangelistic element, as appropriate to setting and context – but rather a service of thanksgiving for a particularly individual.

The text Rowan preached on is one of my favourite passages, and also one of my father’s favourites, from the book of Romans. Read out by David Cameron, I personally felt that Rowan – in a very short time – superbly explained the passage, and related it to the primary theme of the service: thanksgiving to God for the Queen. The passage is about the individual – as part of the body of Christ. And that is what Rowan so eloquently preached. It was a deeply Christian, deeply spiritual sermon. It was short – personally I prefer a longer, meatier sermon – but to the point.

It mentioned Jesus, and I believe that it emphasised the primacy of Jesus in a very healthy way:

“Jesus himself says ‘my food is to do the will of him who sent me’, and thats what is at the heart of real dedication”.

Rowan echoes one of the crucial yet often silenced messages of the New Testament;

“St Paul implies that we should be so overwhelmed by the promise of a shared joy far greater than narrow individual fulfilment, that we find the strength to take the risks and make the sacrifices – even if this seems to reduce our individual hopes of secure enjoyment”

I personally thought that was one of the finest things I’ve heard recently – and a statement that sums up what it would mean for an individual to follow Gods will for their lives.

I enjoyed Rowan’s exploration of the meaning of key words. I enjoyed and was encouraged by his usage of the passage. I was encouraged and gladdened by the vision of community presented here. I do think that more could have been made of the opportunity for evangelistic content – but I do honestly believe that this sermon represents an intelligent Anglicanism that will cause those who heard the sermon to think about the narrative, the truth and the person behind it.

What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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