The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn
Isaiah 63.7-14; Luke 24.36-49
Sticking around is not always seen to be a positive thing nowadays unlike in years past
One of my predecessors in my parish in Leeds was there 50 years as the vicar – I didn’t feel called to emulate that! Some people like to move home regularly; others like to change jobs every few years; some are happy to work in this country, then that. Paul Young summed this up back in 1985 with his hit song, ‘Wherever I lay my hat’ with the words
For I'm the type of boy who is always on the roam
Wherever I lay my hat that's my home
It’s not Shakespeare but it describes this restless spirit that characterises the life of some. But in the church stability is given a high place in our lives. Those called to the religious life, like the Augustinians who first built this church back in the 12th century, committed themselves to place, to being in a place, to being together in a place. Some religious of course choose what is called the mendicant life, wandering around, a community on the move. But other monks choose to stay put, to give themselves to a life of stability.
The Second Lesson this evening describes one of the encounters that the disciples had with the risen Lord. They were in the room that’d become their base. It was on Mount Sion, in the heart of the city, probably the room they first went to with Jesus on the evening when they shared supper with him for the last time. They’d gone back there after the crucifixion, stayed there on that Saturday as Jesus lay in the tomb. It was from here that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb as soon as it was safe to do so. It was from here that the disciples ran, it was to here that the walkers to Emmaus returned and where, after they’d got back and told their story of the encounter on the road, Jesus was there, as we heard, in the midst of them, opening the scriptures to them, sharing food with them.
And then he gives them an instruction
‘stay here in the city’
he says. As the prophet Isaiah says in the First Lesson
‘It was … his presence that saved them.’
Being around is part of the work of salvation, staying in the city is the work of salvation, remaining in the place is the work of salvation. Stability is salvific.
Christians have been worshipping where we’re worshipping from around the year 606. It’s mind bogglingly true. 1,413 years of Christian witness and presence. It’s like one of those fancy bits of filming you nowadays see, where something remains as the still centre of a fast changing scene. What this church has looked like has changed, of course, though not that much in the last 800 years. Yet our context, the place in which we are present, has changed out of all recognition. Bankside has changed, Southwark has changed, London has changed but we have remained in the city as a presence to save them, as a presence to speak of salvation, as a presence that witnesses to resurrection.
We have just held our Annual Parochial Church Meeting, the AGM as it were of this church and all day we’ve been asking those at the services as well as at that meeting to think about our own commitment to this place and to renew that commitment. Inevitably that means thinking about the financial commitment that we’re prepared to make. I want to encourage you to do that. You may already be committed, as I am, to giving to the Cathedral, week by week, month by month, and if you are, thank you. You are enabling us to remain. If you haven’t committed yourself please do so.
At the moment at the Old Bailey the inquest into the events of the night of 3 June 2017 is underway. Terrorists struck our community that evening. Eight people were brutally murdered around this church and in the Market. Many people were physically or mentally injured that night and in the aftermath. This building bears the scars of that attack and will carry those scars into the future. But what was so important then and what’s so important now is that we’re here and we’re committed to being here, to responding to Jesus’ command to us to ‘stay in the city’ to be that saving presence, to be Christ’s body in this place. And that is the challenge.
Generations before us have made sure that we, that you, can be here today. The challenge to each of us, me as much as you, is, are we prepared to make sure that this holy, sacred, beautiful place is here, in the city, tomorrow?