A sermon for The First Sunday after Trinity 2020
In his novel “Time Regained” Marcel Proust describes the search for the heart of any experience. Most of us go though life with little insight into the essence of our life because we spend little time below the surface of our day to day existence. Although our lives are necessarily mundane much of the time, occasionally we are caught unawares and our understanding is illuminated for a moment by a glimpse of something deep and mysterious.
This is true not only for religious people who practice their faith but for those who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious’.
You are suffering, St Paul tells the Christians in Rome. Don’t be cast down. Suffering leads to endurance; endurance to character; character to hope. This is Paul’s strategy, not only for survival, but for mission in a time of persecution.
Our days are different. We are not being persecuted but for many the coronavirus has brought suffering - illness, bereavement, loneliness, poverty. For the churches it has brought the loss of meeting in the fellowship of the liturgy.
However, innumerable people have demonstrated endurance, character and hope and there is real evidence that woven through all of this many are seeking some kind of ‘spirituality’. They know that much of what we have taken for granted in wealthy countries sits on very shaky foundations. They want to ‘get deeper’ rather than ‘getting more’. They have learned that the love they experience with families, friends and local communities must have wider application for wider relationships in the nation and the world. In other words, they reach towards the very convictions the Christian faith offers.
Skills learned and applied by Christians during the coronavirus pandemic have provided new ways for seekers to engage with the church. Online services are open to those who would be fearful, embarrassed or uncomfortable entering a church building. Comments left on social media pages and via church websites provide evidence that countless “spiritual but not religious” people are encountering the church in ways which are accessible and appropriate.
When the worst is over and church buildings are open once again we must continue to value and welcome all spiritual longing.
The Reverend William Mounsey, Associate Priest, St Vincent’s Chapel.