AMEN, LEGGO YAROO! (with apologies to Billy Bunter)
A sermon preached at S.LUKE’S church QUEEN’S PARK on August 19th 2018. Texts: Ephesians 5.15-20; John 6.51-58
Er, no, I haven’t finished yet actually. Sorry to get your hopes up.
I want to talk about the word “Amen” and then I want to talk about the cities of Ephesus and Brighton & Hove.
We usually use the Hebrew word “amen” itself in our worship –
But, if we translate it, then it usually comes out as So it is or So be it or Let it be. Yes or Indeed would probably do in most cases as well.
In John’s gospel, Jesus makes a lot of solemn pronouncements about Himself: I AM the way. I AM the resurrection. I AM the bread of life. Or even simply Before Abraham was, I AM.
Each time He does this, He starts with the formula amen, amen, lego humin in Greek. Sorry, I can’t help thinking of Billy Bunter having his ear twisted by Mr.Quelch and squealing leggo! . Hence the title.
Seriously, Jesus’s formula used to be translated Verily, verily I say unto you and nowadays usually comes out as I tell you most solemnly or Very truly I tell you..
Whichever way, you get the point. He is using Amen Amen to underline the importance of what He is saying. On the other hand, we the worshippers use Amen as a kind of gracious affirmation or agreement. Amen to that. So be it. Yessir. You bet.
As I mentioned, we use it at the end of prayers. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, AMEN. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. AMEN.
But the most important time to say Amen is when you come to receive communion.
The Host and the Chalice are offered to you with the words The body of Christ and The blood of Christ and the correct, the appropriate, the necessary response on your part is AMEN which is as much as to say “Yes, indeed. So it is. This I believe”.
You might perhaps feel self-conscious about voicing a firm Amen along the communion rail. If so, say it sotto voce. If even that is uncomfortable, please say it resoundingly in your heart.
Why? Why should you give your assent to the words of the priest or deacon or lay administrator of the chalice? Because of the words of Our Lord in the gospel you just heard.
I AM THE LIVING BREAD. THE BREAD THAT I GIVE FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD IS MY FLESH.
UNLESS YOU EAT MY FLESH, YOU HAVE NO LIFE IN YOU.
Well, that’ll do for starters, won’t it? Why wouldn’t you want to say “Amen! Yes. So be it. Give me some of that bread!”
But of course that’s not all. So far, that’s all about you and your life. He goes on to say:
THOSE WHO EAT MY FLESH LIVE IN ME AND I LIVE IN THEM. AS I DRAW LIFE FROM MY FATHER IN HEAVEN, SO ANYONE WHO EATS THIS BREAD (not the bread from the supermarket or the even unpleasant tasting manna in the desert which your ancestors ate) – ANYONE WHO EATS THIS BREAD WILL DRAW LIFE FROM ME.
Now. If Christ lives in you or me and we who eat the consecrated bread of the eucharist will draw life from Christ (and that is what He is saying) where does that leave us? What have we said Amen to?
We have said Amen to living out amongst ourselves, to living out in the world, that life of His which is now in us.
So this is where I now want to turn to the epistle reading, to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and to suggest some ideas about the cities of Ephesus and Brighton.
Ephesus, now in Turkey, was an ancient city which became the Roman capital of the province of Asia. Reading between the lines, I get the impression it was a fairly decadent place. After all, Paul had to urge the members of the congregation to keep on singing hymns but stay sober.
The temple of the Greek Goddess Artemis (whom the Romans called Diana) was an ostentatious building known as one of the seven wonders of the world.
While Paul was preaching that there was only one true God whose son was Jesus Christ, the local silversmiths complained to the authorities that Paul was ruining their trade in souvenirs and knick-knacks in the Temple.
A riot broke out in the local theatre (which you can read about in the Acts of the Apostles), after which Paul said “I’m outta here” and headed for Macedonia.
Now I’ve heard Brighton described as decadent and when I read about the over-the-top Temple of Diana, my mind did turn to the Brighton Pavilion or indeed (in terms of temples) S.Bartholomew’s church. I believe John Betjeman once said it would be in keeping with the height and design of that building if the priests made their entrance for Solemn High Mass riding on elephants……………..
But let’s think first of all about the Western world in general and consider Paul’s advice.
The days are evil, he says. Well 2000 years on, that’s bang up to date. Politically, the situation is getting ugly and nasty.
After the 1st world war, we saw the rise of Fascism which in turn though its wickedness led to the 2nd world war. And now there is a clear and preset danger of Fascism rearing its ugly head again in the form of nationalist populism.
– Turkey is being throttled by a dictator
– The far right is gaining ground in Italy and Hungary
– In the White House sits a buffoon, laughed at by the gangster regime in Russia but with his unpredictable, temper-prone finger on the nuclear button.
– At home we have our own buffoons in the nursery playground of Westminster.
Sorry. Excuse my little rant. But what about Brighton?
Well, I rather like its raffish, friendly atmosphere actually. Decadent? Maybe.
Probably more boozy than the austere S.Paul would approve of.
But open, tolerant and inclusive. Those are very important Christian values, even if many who hold and practise them are non-believers.
We welcome lots of foreign students and visitors. We care more than many places for the homeless. The Pride weekend is no longer an angry protest against persecution – it’s now just an excuse for a City-wide party!
What does Paul say to us as a little Christian congregation in a wild and lively city like Ephesus?
Be careful how you live. Not unwisely but wisely.i.e. make sure you don’t hurt or diminish in any way the lives of those you come into contact with, through recklessness or negligence.
The days may be evil but your lives should redeem them. i.e.your quiet example, kindness and generosity compensates for the sin of others
Do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. i.e. always consider what Christ might have done in your place
Be filled with the Holy Spirit. i.e. lead a life of prayer and thanksgiving
We don’t have to expect to change the world, even the world immediately around us but we can still in our little lives do so much for God, if we share His life, His power and His love.
Because remember Paul also said I live. Yet not I but Christ lives in me.
And Christ Himself promises us the same thing at this morning’s eucharist.
ANYONE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD LIVES IN ME AND I LIVE IN THEM.
Amen to that.