Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sermon: Latimer and Ridley, Oxford Martyrs

Sermon for October 16, 2012

Feast Day of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, Bishops and Martyrs, 1555
St. Philips In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
The Rev. Vicki Hesse, October 16, 2012
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all hearts be acceptable to you, o Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen

I have to admit.  History is not one of my best subjects.
In fact, (now, John, close your ears) this was
the one subject of the General Ordination Exams
for which I received (ahem)
remedial help to complete the canonical requirements. 

So when I saw that today’s feast day included
not one but two figures in the history of the reformation,
I cringed.  I reached for the
200-pg “Brief history of the Episcopal Church” book
as well as the nearly 1200-pg “Christianity, the first 3000 years” for perspective of these important ancestors
in our Anglican Tradition.  I wanted to find out:
·    What is really important about these two figures? 
·    How is their life reflected in the Gospel text? 
·    What is relevant to us, today?

Both Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley
refused to recant their protestant theology
before Queen Mary and were persecuted for it.
While their executions contributed
to Queen Mary’s moniker as “Bloody Mary,”
their lives, their faith, and their zeal
inspired the continual reformation
and renewal of the Anglican church.

Hugh Latimer (once Bishop of Worcester)
was zealous in his anti-ecclesiastical position
(in other words, he sought reformed roles and
expectations of clergy and how the church
was organized in obedience to God, not the pope)
even while he held an orthodox theology.
He did not argue doctrine, but rather the
“moral life of Christian clergy and people.”[1] 

Nicholas Ridley
(once Bishop of London and teacher of Lady Jane Grey)
was inspired by the reformation happening on the continent
(a la Luther, Zwingli and Calvin). 
Both participated in the development of the
Book of Common Prayer and opposed Queen Mary.

In 1555, during their execution in Oxford,
Latimer cried out to Ridley:
“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, … 
We shall this day light such a candle
by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.” [2]

With these prophetic words, we now know that
the English reformation spread.
The candle they lit did find a way for reforming peace. 
These two former bishops, persecuted and
burned at the stake for pursuing a reformed church,
held fast to their faith and witness to
God’s living presence in the world. 

Today’s gospel text addresses persecution,
just at the end of  Jesus’
farewell discourse in the Gospel of John.
For most of that farewell discourse,
Jesus taught that the relationships
in the community are to be governed by love. 

In today’s text, Jesus tackled
the believing community’s relationship
to those outside the community.
He prepared the disciples for their relationship
to the world and how that relationship would be
governed by hate, persecution and death. 

Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”

This is not exactly the happy marketing message
we might expect to find
from someone trying to gather followers. 

In this text, the disciples learned that
the call to “love as Jesus loves”
would most crucially be tested
when the community meets the world’s hatred.

Jesus contrasted their faith community and
the “world” more sharply here
than elsewhere in this gospel.
Listen to the “us vs. them” rhetoric,
unusual for one who professes Love.

"If they persecuted me, they will persecute you;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.
But they will do all these things to you
on account of my name,
because they do not know him who sent me.
If I had not come and spoken to them,
they would not have sin;
but now they have no excuse for their sin.
Whoever hates me hates my Father also.”

The way that Jesus contrasted the believing community to the world shows how that believing community
saw themselves as strong internally and unflinchingly
“over and against the ways of the world.”[3] 
For this community, belonging to Jesus
precluded any membership in the world. 
This community saw itself in opposition to the world. 

We must listen to Jesus’ words with care.
This world-denying rhetoric can morph into
life-denying language easily.
In fact, this rhetoric might demonize the adversary,
which makes Love Thy Neighbor a shame. 

Following the examples of Latimer and Ridley,
we follow the more subtle call of Jesus -
to reject “business as usual” – not to withdraw from the world but to be fully present in the world and bring love into it.

In other words, while we might be persecuted for our beliefs,
Jesus calls us, to be radically obedient to his words,
“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

Love, the love we have for one another –
canNOT be separated from its source in God and in Jesus. 

Then Jesus told his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes,
whom I will send to you from the Father,
the spirit of truth that comes from the Father,
he will testify on my behalf.”
When Jesus told his disciples about this Advocate,
the community knew that
Love was this spirit of truth.
Love, whose source is God and Jesus,
Love would prevail through the Advocate,
despite persecution.

And we know that community love,  
sourced from God and made real through the Holy Spirit,
that strengthened the disciples
also strengthens us for what persecutions lie ahead.

Bottom line?
The love of God made known in the incarnation
continues into the life of a believing community (such as this)
through the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus and God send the Holy Spirit to
the community, not to individuals. 
The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is not a private possession. 
It is a gift given to and known in community.
It is the presence of Jesus after Jesus’ departure,
not simply a subjective experience of God.

It is the Paraclete that is the unifying mark
of Christian community,
because it gives all believers access to Jesus.

And, it is through this community, St. Philips,
that we are strengthened in our discipleship
and ability to do God’s work in the world. 

This Tuesday Healing service in our worship
and prayer together,
fueled by the Holy Spirit,
brings healing love to the wounds
that I have and that you have.
The Holy Spirit is at work in our community,
because we are grounded in the Love of Jesus.

Thank you all for your presence here.
Thank you, as well, for your continued support of the church
and all these ministries, grounded in love.

I don’t know about you, but I have found strength and healing
in the prayerful cards sent by the Condolence Writers,
in the prayers offered through the Daughters of the King,
in the communion shared by the LEMs,
in the prayers of knitted into the shawls,
in the abundant love of the church mice receptions,
and in the silence of the centering prayer group,
just to name a few. 

Through these ministries, through our community of love,
we are all strengthened by the Holy Spirit to heal.

Because of your support of these ministries,
I have grown in faith here at St. Philips. 
In this stewardship season,
I invite you to join me tithing to the church. 
Consider how your financial support of St. Philips
meets the healing needs of so many.

Perhaps you will consider an extra prayer
for the person sitting next to you who is involved in
at least one or more of these very important ministries. 

It is through this community of Love, here at St. Philips,
that we are strengthened through the Holy Spirit to be disciples in the world, to do God’s work through God’s love.

Especially this Tuesday Healing service, and our time together,
fueled by the Holy Spirit, brings healing love to the wounds that I bring and that you bring. 

That is good news, that as partners with God
in healing the world, through the Holy Spirit,
you are strengthened for work in the world. 

May we all become witnesses,
like Latimer and Ridley, to God’s abundant love
that knows no bounds.


[1] Holy Women, Holy Men, page 640
[2] A Brief History of the Episcopal Church, David Holmes, p.7
[3] The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, p. 766

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