The Rev'd Canon Michael Rawson, Interim Dean
The Interim Dean's sermon preached at Evensong on Sunday 30 July 2023.
When I was in Wakefield I served as Chair of the Diocesan Advisory Committee which was made up of archdeacons, architects, structural engineers, planners, bell and clock experts, church lawyers, and those with particular skills in art, conservation, textiles and glass. The committee met every first Friday of the month and we always had a long agenda with projects from churches around the diocese wanting permission to do anything from putting in a new heating or lighting system, commissioning a new stained glass window or set of vestments or adapting the building for the mission of the church. They were fascinating meetings and it was always good to work with such a broad group of practitioners. Any project needed lots of accompanying paperwork, including minute details of the scheme together with a rationale for undertaking the work.
The first reading this afternoon reads something like a schedule of works at a Diocesan Advisory Committee meeting. As a retired Archdeacon, Paul will feel entirely at home with those details. So we hear all the measurements of the House of God with all the materials that are to be used and how they are to be finished and decorated, even down to the size of the cherub’s wings. It’s clear that Solomon is being charged with building a house that is fit for the Lord to dwell within. But it is so much more than simply a beautiful building for the Lord charges Solomon, ‘if you will walk in my statues, obey my ordinances and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you. … I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people.’ This is as much about the state of Solomon’s heart and life as the bricks and mortar of the Temple.
At the beginning of Evensong when Paul was admitted as an Honorary Minor Canon he swore to uphold the Statutes and Constitution of the Cathedral, assisting in the offering of worship and being a priestly presence here. Sacred spaces are so important to human beings; thin places where the divine and everyday meet, where heaven and earth touch. Places like the Cathedral point us to the living God and the breaking in of God’s kingdom into our world and our lives. They are shelters for God’s people where we can be gathered in, nourished and fed by the Sacraments and then sent out to serve the world. As the people of God we are called to find God in the world as much as taking God there. For God is as much present in Borough Market, Guy’s Hospital and in the homes, schools and businesses of this neighbourhood and parish.
There is a similar theme running through our second reading where the persecution of the early church has begun in earnest with the martyrdom of James whom we celebrated earlier this week. Inspite of the terror and fear experienced by those fledgling Christians, God promised to dwell among the people and would not forsake them.
As part of the crackdown against the church, Peter was arrested and thrown into jail and yet found himself released through the ministry of an angel; one who was sent to bring him freedom and hope.
He went to the house of Mary, and inspite of being left outside the door knocking because Rhoda the maid was so amazed to see him, and his presence brought them peace and joy in the midst of their fear and anxiety.
Both readings point us to the vocation of the church and Christians to be bearers of the good news of Christ to a needy and anxious world, helping others to know through our actions and words that God dwells in our midst and will never forsake us. Inspite of all that we face, the risen Christ invites us to participate in God’s future kingdom, sharing his resurrection life. For that we bring our praise and thanks to God.