Third Sunday before Lent – morning
Sunday 9th February 2020
3 before Lent – morning
1 Corinthians 2. 1-16
Matthew 5. 13-20
Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs
What’s Love got to do with it?
A good question to ask in a week leading up to Valentine’s Day – that festival of all things pink, gooey, alcoholic and heart-shaped that the retail industry hopes will make us part with ever increasing amounts of our cash. I wonder how many people are anticipating “popping the question” or having a proposal made to them this coming Friday? We are noticeably down on Weddings here at St Chad’s this year – so I do hope I might be getting some enquiries in the weeks to come! And I am a fan of marriage – (although I sometimes question some of the excessive fuss around weddings).
What has love to do with it, is also a good question to ask in the light of the recent (not very) Pastoral Statement that was recently issued on behalf of the House of Bishops – although many of them have since tried to distance themselves from its tone, if not its content!
For those who have no idea to what I am referring, this was a statement that was made in response to the Government opening up Civil Partnerships to couples who are male/female as well as same-sex. It was a reiteration of the Church’s traditional teaching about marriage – that this is the best – indeed the only – context in which sex can be seen as a “Good thing”. Anything else “falls short of God’s purposes for human beings.” The result is that I, or any C of E priest, am unable to hold a service of blessing for any couples – straight or otherwise, who have entered into a Civil Partnership – and of course the Church does not currently recognise marriage as being possible between same-sex couples – whatever the law of the land may say.
Not a word about love, or commitment or family life.
I can bless a battleship (if so requested); I can bless any number of inanimate objects. But two people wanting to make a commitment to each other in love and faithfulness, I am not allowed to bless unless they are male/female and agree to be married.
No wonder the church is seen as increasingly irrelevant to many people outside these walls.
And it flies in the face of all we are doing to reassure couples that they are welcome and accepted, whatever their domestic arrangements, provided they are in a faithful and loving relationship and are providing a stable and loving environment for any children that they may have or care for.
Hence the enormous amount of Episcopal back-pedalling we have seen in the last week or so. It even drew a public apology from the two Archbishops.
There will be those who maintain that the Church should uphold its traditional teaching in this and other matters, but it seems to me that to do so when society has moved so far away from such norms and simply cannot accept as justified the rules we try to enforce is ridiculous. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of couples who have not been living together before marriage in the 20 plus years that I have been ordained. Years in which I have conducted well over 100 weddings. And in your own families you will know this to be true. Many weddings take place with the children of such unions taking part – and a lovely, happy occasion it can be.
I have never, and will never, tell them that they are ‘living in sin’; because I do not believe that to be the case! On the other hand I can see that to remain in an abusive relationship or one where the love has long ago died, can be called sinful and truly does fall short of God’s purposes for humankind.
I wish we in the Church, could be known for our emphasis on the importance of honesty and truthfulness in relationships; of faithful sticking together through the difficult times as well as the good times, above all of kindness in the way we treat each other, rather than continually being preoccupied with what consenting adults do or do not do in the privacy of their own bedrooms!
For me it comes back to Love. Love which is God’s gift to his creation. And as Paul says in our reading this morning, “We have received the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”
Salt that has lost its taste is no longer of any use.
Light that is hidden from the world, has no relevance to that world.
If we persist in holding to rules and guidelines that the rest of the world cannot and will not accept – and moreover, rules and guidelines that our own clergy and bishops may observe in theory, while in practice they do something quite different, well, no wonder we are held up as hypocrites of the worst kind and worthy only of derision.
Love one another, as I have loved you. That is the only commandment that really counts for anything, surely? That and Love your neighbour as yourself. Be kind, be considerate, and celebrate life-giving, life-enhancing love wherever you encounter it.
“For I tell you unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
It make you think, doesn’t it? Happy Valentine’s Day.