Choral Evensong on the Second Sunday Before Lent
The Very Rev'd Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark
Proverbs 8.1,22-31; Revelation 4
The Dean of Southwark's sermon, preached at Evensong on Sunday 12 February.
I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
You can’t hear those words without also hearing in your head Louis Armstrong’s wonderful gravelly voice singing them. What a wonderful world. Even though we see so much pain around us, even though we see what the earth has the potential to do as she shakes herself and those who live on it, we still recognise what a wonderful world it is.
The passage that was the First Lesson for this Evensong is a most beautiful poem about creation. It comes from a different tradition to those accounts of creation that we get at the beginning of the Book of Genesis. What’s most beautiful to me is the sense of rejoicing that’s part and parcel of all that’s happening, all that’s being created when it describes divine wisdom as
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
It was a tough week last week in the General Synod of the Church of England. Amongst all of the legislative business, the nuts and bolts stuff that keeps the Church of England functioning, was the much anticipated debate on the ‘Living in Love and Faith’ report and the proposals made by the bishops. It’d been a long time coming, much anticipated, and tensions, emotions and expectations were high. Whilst LLF had encouraged us to look at human sexuality, gender, identity as a whole, inevitably the focus had been on homosexuality, the questions around LGBTQI+ people in the life of the church and whether or not their relationships could be blessed.
In the end we debated the issues for eight and a half hours and in the main, people were respectful of one another. When you talk about such things you tread on holy ground, our self understanding, our loves, our fears, our shames, our desires.
But at the heart of it all is the big question that focuses in on God’s good creation – are homosexuals a mistake, a disordered part of n ordered creation, or are they, are we, as much part of God’s good design as anyone else.
The answer to that doesn’t just affect how we look at LGBTQI+ people but all of us in our differences and in our uniqueness, you with your neural diversity, you with your learning challenges, you with your physical disability, you with tendency to depression. How do we understand each other, our uniqueness, and rejoice in it, delight in the rainbow nature of the human race?
There’s a phrase that’s used to describe some housing developments that spring up like mushrooms on the edges of our towns and villages – cookie cutter homes. There’s nothing wrong with them but as Pete Seeger sang back in 1963 with his protest hit, ‘Little Boxes’
There's a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same
But that is not how God made us, not the delightful creation that set divine wisdom rejoicing, we are never cookie cutter creations but unique individuals loved, beloved by God.
Last week was a beginning in thinking better and differently about each other and who we are. As one person, in a study group I was in, said, ‘It’s a stepping stone’ and we will see where the stones lead, but today, we rejoice with the host in St John’s vision, our Second Lesson, when heaven sings to God
‘for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.’