By this you will know....
Sermon Easter 4 2021
Annas stands and asks the apostles, by what power or by what name did you do this?
Having watched and witnessed the actions of those early Christians,
audacious, bold, passionate and empowered …
Annas and his high-priestly companions had to ask;
by what power or by what name did you do this?
What does cause us to do
any of the things we do?
If we were to really ask ourselves such a question, we might find ourselves answering differently;
y? A spirit of adventure maybe, or a comfort blanket of habit.
Necessity or luxury.
Coming out at the end of an entire year of questioning why we do the things we do,
many see that we now have the opportunity to do things differently, if we want to.
We may be hum
an be-ings, but we behave rather more like human do-ings.
Though mistakenly attributed to Saint Francis, those words
‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words’
resonate from the texts we have before us this morning.
Because the texts are all about people doing things.
The texts all talk about people knowing Christ by the things that are being done.
Even Christ talks about people knowing God by the things God does in Christ.
In an early work by Saint Augustine for the clergy he led he wrote that the most important sermon a priest would preach is the one that you walk each day, each week.
‘Let it be known’
‘By this you will know’
‘By this we will know’
‘I know my own and my own know me’.
Educational theorists will quickly recognise the school of thought
that immersive and experiential ways of knowing and learning differ to any banking systems where a teacher stands at the front. Knowing by the things that are done is arguably a more powerful experience it lies behind that idea that the faith is not taught, but caught.
We learn things by watching others do the things - even if they know it or not.
All of which leads us to a rather thorny and yet powerful question;
What do people know by watching me?
What do people learn about Jesus, by watching what I do.
The reading from John uses the enduring and illustrative language of shepherd
and people often talk to me about my ‘flock’ and in the ordinal used at ordinations the language is used with some abundance.
However, this is slightly misleading and needs a little redressing.
In this place, in the morning light and the blessing of the Eucharist the Shepherd comes to us in his own presence, because the Shepherd is Christ.
And when we leave this place, carrying with us the light of Christ renewed,
we all become the shepherds, the witnesses, the gatherers and the do-ers.
We all share in this great shepherding ministry;
We are all teachers of the faith,
through the things we do and the way we behave.
John writes in the epistle: ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action’,
which when seen in its very best form,
leads the people to ask
‘By what power or by what name did you do this?'.
‘Preach the Gospel at all times, only use words when necessary.
Amen The Rev'd Arwen Folkes, for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.