It is good that this evening’s the second lesson begins where last week’s ended. The author of the letter to the Hebrews is still giving advice on how to live together as a Christian community. To put it simply we are not to neglect doing good. We are then to use each and every opportunity which we have to do good: to do the right thing regardless of the costs, or the consequences. We are to share what we have, because as Christians we are to be loving and generous people who live out our faith in our lives, who cannot fail to help those in need.
With such love and generosity comes obedience. The leaders are not specified in the letter as priests or bishops, however they ‘watch over your souls’. These then are people who exercise of pastoral care of the people of God, which is a great responsibility. Next comes the main point, they are ‘those who will have to give an account’. I suspect that you are familiar with the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14–30) . Well, those of us ordained priests and bishops are told at our ordination are consecration but we will have to answer to God on the day of judgement for our care of his flock. It is perhaps the singularly most terrifying thing which anyone says to me in life. It scared me then, over a year ago just as it does today. The fact that I will have to answer for my stewardship of God’s people fills me with terror. As stewards go, I’m a pretty poor one, a miserable sinner, in need of God’s love and mercy, who is absolutely not up to the task I have been given. I can but trust in God’s grace, his love at his mercy and cry ‘Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner’. Given the current state of the church in England I can only hope that priests and bishops reading these words this evening will be similarly moved. St John Chrysostom once wrote that ‘the way to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops’, and I can only hope and pray that they will listen to the advice of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews and not find themselves wailing and gnashing their teeth, having been found wanting in their stewardship of Christ’s flock.
The care of Christ’s flock is a solemn undertaking which I hope and pray is pondered long and hard before decisions are taken in the forthcoming months which have the potential to disfigure the body of Christ in this land. One can I suspect feel rather like Moses standing before Pharaoh simply asking ‘Let my people go that they may worship me in the wilderness’. To be in the wilderness is to be in a place upon which the world places no value whatsoever. To be in the wilderness is to be with God and to be opposed to the ways of the world, the ways of Pharaoh, and the ways of his power. To be in the wilderness is to wander, but also to be with God knowing that as Christians then is our true home, that the politics of the Gen Synod are as nothing compared to being with God, fed by his word and his sacraments, with true shepherds and not hirelings to lead us so that we may do God’s will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight that we may serve God the Father, God the son, and God the holy ghost to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and for ever