Lancelot Andrewes - Choral Eucharist

  • Preacher

    The Reverend Duncan Dormor, General Secretary of USPG

‘A witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.’ 1 Peter 5 v. 1

Between the words that are spoken and the words that are heard, may God’s life-giving Spirit move in our hearts and minds. Amen

So, who you are, you Angel-icans? (Anglicans). But who are you, you Angel-icans? You look a bit like us Catholics, but what sort of Christians are you?

Quite a tricky question from a lay Roman Catholic Filipino to an Anglican (strictly an Episcopalian) Bishop. How do you explain the nature of Anglicanism in the Philippines or indeed Korea or Japan or Brazil in 2019? Or, if it is possible to strip away the imperial inheritance, what does it really mean to be an Anglican Christian across the former colonies of the British Empire in the Caribbean or Zimbabwe or Hong Kong? What is it that holds us together?

The answer I suggest may lie, in part with Lancelot Andrewes, who we remember today and who died at the very beginning of the extraordinary expansion of British imperialism and of a global Anglicanism - and for whom Anglicans in the Philippines or Korea or Zimbabwe must surely have been unimaginable.

A highly gifted preacher, linguist and theologian, Andrewes was one of the lead translators of the King James Version of the Bible, whose resonant phrases we have just heard:

 

‘not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind’,

‘Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like unto’,

And the

 ‘pearl of great price’.

 

But also, a book which helped establish English as the language within which we live from cradle to grave, and, indeed the rhythm of the King James version still dances in our world; in common speech and advertising:

 

‘Cast your blog upon the waters’

‘A quote of many colours’

 

Or from a London bakery advertising their wares:

‘man does not live by bread alone. We bake to differ’

In commemorating Andrewes, we are remembering one key member of a group of highly influential clerics who to a very large degree created our understanding of what it really means to be Anglican in a deeper way. By which I mean they sowed the seeds for an understanding of Anglicanism which went beyond the Church of England and a particular political-religious settlement. Clearly part of that involved a real commitment to the culture of the common people, to the ‘vulgar tongue’ of English rather than to the elite – and the languages of the elite – to the Latin of the traditional Church – or indeed, French – the language of power, hence ‘parliament’, ‘Government’ and our current favourite ‘Pro-rogue’;

What I am describing is what has come to be known as the ‘Middle way’, the Via Media, a path between Roman Catholicism and Puritanism, between too great a focus on either the authority of the Church or the Authority of Scripture. Yet, at its best, this middle way is really a grounding of faith in the ‘deep centre’ of the Gospel, a way of grasping more fully understanding of the reality that we are our best selves in Christ. And it captures something important about the nature and shortcomings and corruptions of both political and religious power; a way of trying to live as a Christian in the world that understands - the dangers of the Church becoming too institutionalised, the dangers of unfettered individualism – all of us going our own way - and the dangers of political and state power in all its forms.

It turns out my Filipino friend usually replies to questions about ‘Angeli-cans’ by talking about the UK’s most famous brand – Her Majesty, the Queen. It helps people make the connection. Bishop Andrewes, perhaps most well-known for his sermons before James 1st, might have smiled, wryly. For Andrewes was a strong believer in the importance of the sovereign and of the proper exercise of political power and authority – held to account but within limits. Reflecting upon an occasion on which he felt he had failed to see the distinction he wrote ‘Deliver me from making Gods of Kings’.

In our global world, it is not by and large, monarchies we have to fear but the Presidential demi-Gods and populists whose personal engines of egoism are fed by the fuel of nationalism and the expulsion of scapegoats and enemies, those ‘not like us’ from the warm inner circle of ‘true belonging’. Of course, the Christian is called from the false security of such identities – whether to a party, nation-state, civilization or empire; to the pursuit of that ‘other country’, the Kingdom – the treasure in the field, the pearl of great price yet hidden in plain sight.

Which brings me to the heart of the Christian vision of Lancelot Andrewes. That mystical understanding that draws us together into the Body of Christ; those who are witnesses to the sufferings and partakers in the glory. Glory and suffering; sorrows and joys. To pick up on my London baker – God ‘bakes to differ’; we are baked together through our worship, our prayer, our community life, our deepening spiritual and ethical reflection, through our participation, our incorporation, our acts of confession and of forgiveness, our moulding and partaking in the Body of Christ – to be different.

And it is this, that draws me back to the global stage. For as the General Secretary of USPG, United Society Partners in the Gospel, founded in 1701, the most distinctively Anglican of the mission agencies – I believe we all have a role, all bear a responsibility to deepen our awareness and to enrich our prayer life through a concern for the mutual love within that global community. For in Christ there really are no boundaries or passports or rallying cries to nationalism. We are called to serve our global neighbour, but more than that: ‘we are brothers and sisters together, the body, the ‘blessed company of the faithful’ is global; we are witnesses and partakers together; called to stand in solidarity with one another as we saw on Friday with the Climate Global strike.

We are those called to stand alongside, for example, the Bishop of the Amazon, Bishop Marinez, who recently wrote, following he fires in the Amazon:

we are all in deep pain and suffering as the Amazon burns…indigenous populations are suffering and being killed, animals are burning alive, it is an unprecedented devastation.

We are those called to stand alongside our brothers and sisters who have experienced the devastation of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas or are beginning to rebuild their lives after the Cyclones in Mozambique.

We are those called to stand alongside the churches and priests of the Philippines, some of whom have been ‘red-tagged’ that is actively targeted and killed, as they put themselves in harm’s way standing with the indigenous peoples against those who would steal and force them off their ancestral lands and strip it for commercial gain.

In our mutual witnessing as a global church we partake as the one body of the one bread; and he is ‘moulding us’ says Lancelot into the ‘one loaf’.  This is the deeply spiritual and profoundly liberating vision that Andrewes has for the Church. For Andrewes the church, whatever the denomination is fundamentally the ‘blessed company of all faithful people’, its sisters and brother ‘partake of the bread of angels’ – for to share in witness, to share in one another’s brokenness in Christ, as to celebrate in their joys - is to participate in that journey of transformation towards divine Christlikeness. As we seek to share in the ‘bread of angels’ may we know something more of what it might mean to be an ‘Angel-ican’.

To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen