29 June 2001
Archbishop Peter Jensen's Sermon on the occasion of his consecration and installation as Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of NSW
In his inspiring inaugural sermon, the newly installed Archbishop of Sydney encouraged the crowded congregation in St Andrew's Cathedral to look to the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust in his promise, 'surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'.
"There is no need to seek for him in the dark places, to wait upon mystery in the hope of a whisper," Archbishop Peter Jensen said. "For busy and practical men and women he is close at hand, for his words are close at hand. The Christian life is a life founded upon and regulated by the word of God."
"The words of Jesus are a fundamental part of God's word, the Bible. We believe that its is the duty of all, pastors and people alike, to listen to the word of God, to build our lives upon it, to regulate our churches in conformity to it, to test all things by it. I believe that it is our failure to do this which helps account for our spiritual weakness. If we will not be lead by the word of the Lord, we will be disobedient to him, and forfeit the blessing of walking in his way."
Archbishop Jensen commenced his sermon asking his listeners if they feared him and what he would do with the authority vested in him in his consecration and installation service. "This ancient pageant marks a transition to office, to power. All the pomp is intended to make the transition legitimate. Power is clothed in dignity to hide its menace. The outward show is intended to reassure us: human beings may validly possess authority. But the question of power remains," the Archbishop said.
"You may well wonder what I plan to with this authority... Is Peter Jensen a man who will act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with his God?" He told the congregation that he accepted the office of Archbishop knowing that he was accountable to Jesus Christ, the source of authority in every human institution, including the church. He emphasised the corruption through sin of all human power, saying that this is 'precisely why we are so careful to guard against absolute power'.
"We are all accountable to Jesus Christ for the authority we have, at home, at work, in the public sphere, in the church. And there remains his mercy - the possibility of repentance and forgiveness when we fail. Thus I accept this office knowing that I too am accountable to him, that I need his mercy and that I am under his command. What I plan to do flows from the devices and desires of my own heart, but from his standing orders in the Bible; obedience is the beginning of spirituality."
The Archbishop stated the marring of human practices by sin and corruption was the fundamental reason for opposition to the practice and legalisation of euthanasia. "We may be intellectual giants, but we are moral pygmies. Our failures are so constant that decisions of this nature are beyond our capacity to make with integrity. There is far too much scope for abuse in the practice of euthanasia. We must not trust ourselves with such power; the human race is not the proper custodian for this authority. We are disqualified."
"But if failure is endemic, how can I accept this office?" the Archbishop asked. "How will I know what to do with it? You may be sure that I fear to accept it, knowing my own heart. I do so on the grounds that actually authority and true mercy belong to Jesus Christ. I am only a servant of the Lord, not the Lord himself.... Thus I accept this office knowing that I too am accountable to him, that I need his mercy and that I am under his command. What I plan to do flows not from the devices and desires of my own heart, but from his standing orders in the Bible; obedience is the beginning of spirituality," Archbishop Jensen said.
Describing Christianity as 'a missionary movement', the Archbishop stressed that Jesus Christ must be Lord of all. "His love of men and women knows no borders. It is not restricted to the white peoples, or the English speaking peoples; he is no racist; it is a universal love. In Australia, the nations have come to us, and our beloved Anglican church must reflect that reality or finally perish in irrelevance," he said.
Archbishop Jensen said that the missionary movement has sometimes been 'marred by ungodly coercion, by a sense of superiority, by cultural insensitivity'. "But it has also been one of the most stirring and remarkably positive tales of all history," he said.
Archbishop Jensen said that in relativistic world the absolute claims made by Christ are confronting. "It is one of the great blessings of God that we live in a democratic society in which it is possible to proclaim the unique and absolute Christ without fear. Relativistic societies sometimes develop phobias about such free speech, and we must be careful to safeguard this precious privilege. The practice of speaking the truth in love is especially important amongst all who claim the name of Christ," he said.
However Archbishop Jensen acknowledged that relativism had grown out of the past history of Christians quarrelling violently amongst themselves, 'in such a way as to dishonour Christ'.
"Sectarianism helped breed secularism," he said. "The churches have real and vital differences; some of those differences are on fundamental issues. Silence and acquiescence is not the answer; but neither is public brawling, We must practice so speaking that our differences will actually help illumine the gospel, for those who do not know Christ. We must 'speak the truth in love'.