Ninth Sunday after Trinity - Evensong

  • Preacher

    The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn

  • Readings

    1 Kings 11.41 - 12.20; Acts 14.8-20

I’m not sure that pub quizzes have yet been released from lockdown measures

But certainly I’ve been involved in quite a few quizzes on Zoom whilst we haven’t been able to meet up with people.  Both the Friends of the Cathedral and the Cathedral Guides have held a number of online quiz sessions during the months of lockdown.  The Guides quizzes were meant to keep them in good shape for when they can begin guiding people around this lovely cathedral again.  To be honest, I learnt so much, I didn’t ever win but the joy was of course in the participation.

One very popular pub quiz question, not one that the Guides nor the Friends asked I have to admit, and one that certainly separates the sheep from the Sloane Rangers, is to name all the different champagne bottles in order of size.  I can’t do that but I do know that in the list of the magnums etc. are two of the characters from this evenings First Lesson.  Jeroboam and Rehoboam are remembered in the list of bottle sizes.

Just so you know, a Jeroboam holds the equivalent of 4 standard bottles and a Rehoboam 6.  It’s a Melchisadech, another Old Testament character, that wins in the bottle stakes holding the equivalent of 40 bottles and is I’m sure almost unpourable as it would weigh almost 70 kilos – and some say that such a bottle has never really existed.

What we see though in the First Lesson is a power struggle underway between these two figures – Rehoboam, the son of Solomon and Jeroboam a contender for the throne.  Solomon was blessed with wisdom but we see immediately that this didn’t flow down to the next generation.  From the start Rehoboam was into making harsh, cruel decisions.  He ignored the advice he was given and listened to the wrong people.  Instead of valuing wisdom, the wisdom of the elders, he was more concerned to listen to the voices of his young friends.  And that decision led to the break up of what’d been a united kingdom under David and Solomon.

Paul and Barnabas are outside of their comfort zone.  As we heard in the Second Lesson they were in the cities of Asia Minor, preaching the Good News, and people were mistaking their actions for the actions of the pagan gods they worshipped.  But the apostles resisted the pressure and the garlands and the sacrifices.  They had the wisdom to hold to the truth even though that would get them into even more trouble with the local Jewish communities who managed to turn the crowds against Paul. 

The question I think that both these Lessons present us with is who do we listen to?

There are so many voices that nowadays compete for our attention and claim credibility.  Where, for instance, do you get your news from, which news agency do you actually trust to be telling you’re the truth, given that truth itself is contested? 

Overlooking this cathedral is the News Building, the London base of Robert Murdoch’s media empire.  We have a good working relationship with them but we all know the scraps that various publications from that building get into and the recent resignation of James Murdoch from the Board is a kind of indication that the power struggles of the Rehoboams and the Jeroboams of this world and the adulation afforded to Paul and Barnabas continue to be both very real and very seductive.

News is a commodity and I think that we’re coming to realise that more than ever.  Who do we chose to buy our news and our opinions from?  But scripture has an answer for us in that particular quiz question.  The book Ecclesiasticus opens with a single clear statement of truth

All wisdom is from the Lord.

Knowing that and believing that is one way of responding to the cacophony of what claims to be wisdom around us.