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Different Christs?

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 29 September 2013

This is the disturbing title of a sermon in Rowan Williams’ excellent book “Open to Judgement”. 

I was forcibly reminded of this theme when I took part in the first evening of our Autumn Education Programme on Monday. What struck me were the theologies formed in the crucibles of very different congregational needs. In one area of London the preaching of the divine son-ship of Jesus is a litmus test of orthodoxy among young people. In another cultural and geographical area, represented by a young person in the audience, it was impossible to communicate Jesus as a divine figure at all. In one area the Bible was highly esteemed as literal truth. In another it was understood as poetically true. In one area swelling congregations were manifestations of God’s blessing. In another, the Church was learning to eschew an emphasis on growth as the test of success. In one area clergy, women especially, must work hard to earn a modicum of respect. In another they wear the marks of privilege.

How to cohere together? 

Jesus appears to come walking through the locked doors of difference between us, prising open hearts and lives, if we could but learn to talk about it.

The evening’s most shocking stories were reminders that people of colour had not been welcome in some Anglican churches in London just a few years ago, had been urged to “go elsewhere”. Jesus must bear the pain of that and so, being his Body, must we. Difference between us is a joy, a tiny sign of Creation’s huge diversity. Division destroys lives, dashes hope into the dust. I felt at the end of the evening I could only pray, “Come, Lord Jesus”, not to solve our problems like a magician, but to teach us how to love.  

Revd Clare Herbert