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Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon in New Zealand

Posted on: August 15, 2014 12:35 PM
The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Revd Justin Welby preaching in Auckland's Church of the Holy Sepulchre last night
Photo Credit: Luci Harrison
Related Categories: Abp Welby, New Zealand, sermon

Preaching at the Holy Sepulchre Maori Mission Church in Auckland yesterday, Archbishop Justin Welby reflected on events in Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere and said our vocation is "to be Christ in this troubled world". 

The Archbishop was preaching during a two-day visit with the Archbishops of the three Tikanga of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia: Archbishop William Brown Turei (Aotearoa), Archbishop Philip Richardson (New Zealand) and Archbishop Dr Winston Halapua (Polynesia). The visit to New Zealand came at the end of a 10-day visit to Anglican primates in the South Pacific. 

Read an extract of his sermon below: 

Psalm 72, Proverbs 8.22-31, John 19.23-27

Even after 2000 years of the gospel it is good to remember the absurdity, the insanity of the Cross. In John's gospel the Cross is the place of exaltation, of triumph. John himself says that was clear to the disciples after the resurrection. For everyone else apart from Jesus, the spectacle, the sight of a man on a cross led them to get Jesus wrong.

For the soldiers, playing dice at the foot of the Cross, the error is to see nothing out of the ordinary. The world is being saved around them by this figure, at whose feet they gamble. And they gamble... to make the most of a dull day.

The disciples, those who have not run away, huddle in despair and anguish and defeat. Their error is only to see their crucified rabbi. They do not see triumph, the throne of the Cross.

The world passed on its way that day, as it would every other day – and as probably we would have done, if we’d been in Jerusalem that day. Across the Holy Land, the dying died, the suffering suffered, all over the world. Many other deaths happened, unremarked, that day. And this day was much unremarked, among those who were there.

And yet only this death made human history, made cosmic history, completely different; and the challenge for us as the family that was created through and after that event, God's family, is to be the sort of people that enable the mistakes that were made then, and are still made today, to be set right so that the light may shine.

Because for Christians, all our actions should be governed by this figure. By the way of his death, a figure on the Cross; by the empty tomb; by the gift of the Spirit of God; by our vocation to be Christ in this troubled and, for many, terrible world.

This evening, the appalling events of Iraq, and equally terrible killings in Northern Nigeria and in Syria, the war in the Ukraine, and in so many other parts of the world. The seeming endless repetition of the terrible tragedies of Gaza and of the whole of Israel and Palestine. All these events and movements propel us towards fear, and fear takes us to self-protection, and self-protection drives us to action that only makes things worse.

There must of course be actions. We are an active people. Christians are called by God to serve, to transform. Yet the pattern of action is set by the figure on the Cross.

There are millions of reasons for fear. There’s probably about six and a half billion in this world at the moment – and they are every single human being.

We look at human sin and violence, and that gives us reason to fear. We look at natural disasters – and you know so much more than we do about that – and we see millions and billions of reasons for fear.

Against those millions and billions, there is only one reason for courage, for hope – and that is God. The God of Cross and Resurrection. And that one reason overwhelms every other reason for fear.