Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making God Credible

How do we make God credible? The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams, offers a biblically grounded response to that question in his All Saints' Day sermon:

Witnesses establish the truth by giving evidence. It really is as simple as that. When we celebrate the Saints, we celebrate those who have given evidence, who have made God believable by how they have lived and how they have died. The saints are the people who recognise that arguments will finally not win the day. God does not make himself credible by argument. God does not respond to our doubts, our intellectual querying, our uncertainty, by delivering from Heaven a neatly annotated list of logical propositions with which we cannot disagree. (I'm afraid that Professor Dawkins can bang on the doors of Heaven as long as he likes if that is what he expects to happen.) God deals with us by our life and a death, by Jesus. And God continues to deal with us by lives and deaths that make him credible, that make Jesus tangible here and now. All those people who flocked into Westminster Cathedral a couple of weeks' ago to pay their respects to St Therese of Lisieux were recognizing that in her Christ became tangible for her generation and for ours and that is what the Saints do.

Do we think it is impossible to live a Christlike life in this or that setting, with these stresses or those, in the presence of dark evil and deep suffering? If we doubt it, it is not argument that will settle the matter: it is the bare reality of life lived in a Christlike way in such circumstances. In the very early Church, local congregations would write eagerly to one another to describe the sufferings they'd been through and the martyrs who had glorified God in their midst. They were telling one another, 'It is believable. We have seen and touched with our hands, the word of life. We have seen lives lived in desperate and reckless generosity to the point of death, and God has become credible afresh to us in those lives. That was the exchange, the common currency of the early Church and I suspect that the faith of the Church catholic – let alone the Anglican Communion – would be a bit different these days if our main currency of exchange was to let one another know how God had become credible to us. ...

So at All Saints' tide we give thanks that God in Christ has made himself credible; credible in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus; credible in the lives of those in whom Jesus has come alive. And we thank God for that extraordinary promise: that the great Saints of the Communion of Christ's body depend on us as we depend on them in growing together. ...

We need to tell the stories of the Saints to remind ourselves what is possible and within any Christian family. We need to tell the stories of those who have made God credible to us. And within our Anglican family we need to go on telling a few stories about those who have shown us that it is possible to lead lives of Catholic holiness even in the Communion of the See of Canterbury! We need to be reminded of what we have to be grateful for in the lives of those who within our communion and fellowship have lived out God's presence and made him credible here in this fellowship with these people. God knows what the future holds for any of us for any of our ecclesiastical institutions, but we can at least begin with what we can be sure of; that God has graced us with the lives of Saints; that God has been credible in this fellowship with these people. This church with its very particular place in the history of the Church of England is one small but significant facet of that great mystery and that great gift. And at times when the future seems more than usually chaotic and uncertain, it doesn't hurt simply to give thanks.

Read it all.

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