A Sermon on the
Wayne J. Hankey
PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist
Based on the
Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, Canada.
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown,
permission of the publisher.
"Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the
mother of us all."
We are in
the midst of a journey. It is our Christian pilgrimage upon which Christ
himself set us. We started out at his command; we go up to Jerusalem. Long
journeys are hard work and this is no short trip. Jerusalem is the place of
Easter's resurrection and it is the heavenly city of all the saints. Travelling
to Jerusalem is nothing less than the whole motion of the lives of each one of
us, and the entirety of man's history as well. Travellers on such a lengthy
journey are certain to grow hungry, weary and discouraged, distracted and even
lost. So now, in the midst of Lent's journey, itself the symbol of man's
travelling to Jerusalem, his true homeland, we hear an encouraging cry.
Jerusalem which is above, the city you are seeking, is free; she is the mother
of us all. Rejoice, we are the children of the free. And thus, in our mind's
eye, we begin to make out the character and lineaments of the city towards which
we are moving. We get our directions again and our compasses are fixed.
is given. The Church not only announces our free citizenship in the heavenly
Jerusalem and urges us homeward to our native land, but here, on the dusty road,
she provides us with miraculous food to sustain us on our way:
And Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the
disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the
fishes, as much as they would.
for our journey to Jerusalem is the bread that will be broken here this morning
in this eucharist. It is food for citizens of the free city Jerusalem who seek
their way back home; it is the food of our nourishing mother, our alma mater.
it strange that we represent our life's work in this image of the pilgrimage to
a city. For at the beginning of Lent, the Church taught us about how the first
city was founded. The first city, Enoch, was set up by Cain after he murdered
his brother Abel. Cain's envy and resentment has a paradoxical result. First
it leads to murder and the denial of community. With Abel dead in the field,
his blood cries up to God and God asks Cain, "Where is your brother?" Cain
returns a question: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4.9) But second, this
selfish envy, resentment, and fear lead to the founding of the first city:
And Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bare Enoch: and he builded a city
and called the name of the city after his son Enoch.
comes into being after the family bond is broken by the spilling of the
fraternal blood. The city is like a band of robbers or a gang of murderers
huddled together against the fear of each other and of the outside world. Men
need to be under rule, under government because of the wickedness of their
fall, God sets Adam to rule over Eve, and Cain over Abel. To Eve he says: "Thy
desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." To Cain the Lord
says, "And unto thee shall be his desire and thou shalt rule over him." This is
where we start: in a city established because of man's selfish, murderous will.
But hope has entered: "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem." Lent, in our lives both
individually and collectively, is a race and journey by which we travel from the
city we have founded to the city whose maker and defender is God. We travel
from Cain's city, which we have created, to the paradisal city in which and for
which God created us. This is the better country, our true mother and native
land, Jerusalem above and free. We are journeying from the city founded on the
love of self even to the point of destruction of others, to the city founded on
the love of God even to the point of denial of self.
is our goal a city? Why do we not rather represent our odyssey and journey to
God as did the pagan philosopher Plotinus "the flight of the alone to the
Alone?" Brotherly love is the foundation of our eternal life:
For this is the message ye have
heard from the beginning that ye should love one another…We know that we have
passed from death to life because we love the brethren. No murderer has eternal
life dwelling in him. (1 John 3.11-15)
has the hope of seeing God must be purified to be like him. We are all being
changed and purified in the course of our journey. We are having our murderous
selfish loves changed into the generous life-giving will of God. To be like God
and to see him face to face we must learn a love that creates, embraces, and
sustains. We must learn to love our brothers.
the miraculous power which turns death into life, it is in the city that murder
founded where we learn the love that gives life. We know "we have passed from
death to life because we love the brethren," brethren meaning our fellow
citizens. The power that transforms the city is the cross. "Who loves his life
shall lose it, who loses his life shall gain it eternally." (John 12.25)
of learning this godly love is the life of the city: our life together in our
families, in our church, in our communities, in the state.
is admission to a community. Christ's Church is the door entering into the
heavenly Jerusalem. Unless we really enter the Church and learn the disciplines
of its communal life, baptism is only vain superstition, an empty ceremony.
Use all diligence to see that these
children be virtuously brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life; and to
that end you should teach them to pray, and bring them to take part in public
worship…for baptism represents unto us our profession…to follow our Saviour
Christ and to be made like unto him.
(Book of Common
Prayer: Holy Baptism p. 530)
It is by
the discipline of life together, day by day, week by week, year by year in
family, church and state that we learn to take account of our brother's good, of
our neighbour's need. We learn a love of our own kin, our neighbours and our
country. By the disciplines of life together we are able to make love more than
passing sentiment and feeling. We make it the real substance of life. The ways
of Jerusalem, the ways of eternal life, begin to grow strong in us. Jerusalem
is the city of the free, the city of those who have as their heart's desire the
homeland of eternal life. Jerusalem is free of the love of self with its
torment and guilt, with its suspicion, envy, resentment, hatred, and murderous
fear. It is free because it is a true community. It is the love of God and
brother. The disciplines of our earthly cities are the training for the freedom
of the heavenly Jerusalem, because there the saints live in communion with one
another. "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the
hard it is for us to see this. God knows how bleary-eyed and confused we are.
He knows how hard it is for us in the midst of this long journey to see where we
are going and to keep on the road. In the midst of our Lenten journey comes the
cry: "Jerusalem, the city you are seeking, the city above, it is your nourishing
mother and true native land: you were born there and your true nature seeks it:
this better country is free and you are its free children." And in this
sacrament God lifts the veil and shows us heavenly things under our earthly
fare. In the bread broken he shows us eternal life, and in the cup shared
everlasting salvation, that we might know what we are gaining in our earthly
labours. Sustained by his love may we all be gathered into the new Jerusalem,
and restored to our alma mater. May we with all the saints praise, laud and
magnify the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom be all might, majesty,
dominion, and power, henceforth and world without end. Amen.