Logo

 

Banner Image:   Baptist-Times-banner-2000x370-
Template Mode:   Baptist Times
Icon
    Post     Tweet


‘Service in life; hope in death’: Welby’s counter-cultural message 


Amid the pomp and precision, Archbishop Justin Welby’s sermon was so vital, writes Jon Kuhrt


Justin Welby - Credit 'Jaqui J

I can understand the feelings of those who struggled with aspects of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

However much respect and gratitude there is towards the Queen, the fusion of militarism, opulence and imperial power alongside Christian worship should create dissonance and provoke questions. The medium cannot be separated from the message.

It’s a struggle I have every time I am in Westminster Abbey. It is a church dedicated to the glory of God, yet it also feels like a temple to British imperialism

For those who live in countries saturated in wealth, power and Christian religion, it’s a dissonance we cannot avoid. We should always be asking ‘What would the man in the sandals make of it?’


Conviction

This is why, amid the pomp and precision, Justin Welby’s sermon was so vital. In under 6 minutes, he shared a counter-cultural message about the value and priority of life with clarity and conviction.

Welby had some job on his hands.  He was speaking to over 5 billion people – over 60 per cent of the world’s population. Never has a sermon had this kind of profile and reach.

And he went for it. He did not couch his message in bland platitudes about Christian values. He avoided what he has described as the ‘moral claptrap’ which so often warps public discussions about faith.

Also, his brevity created clarity: a great example to those who preach. In a lifetime of church-going, I have never felt a sermon was too short.


Counter-cultural 

But best of all, Welby shared a radical and deeply counter-cultural message about true value. 

The pattern for many leaders is to be exalted in life and forgotten after death. The pattern for all who serve God – famous or obscure, respected or ignored – is that death is the door to glory.


Service and humility before God is not just a nice way to live; it is the route to true greatness:

People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.


This truth is ultimately embodied by the life and death of the person at the heart of the Christian faith:

Jesus – who does not tell his disciples how to follow, but who to follow – said: “I am the way, the truth and the life”.


Ultimate sacrifice

I will always feel ambivalent about many of the statues and monuments which cover Westminster Abbey. 

But there is a row of statues above the Great West door which remember 20th century martyrs who died because of their faith in Christ. They include Martin Luther KingOscar Romero and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and seven others from across the world.

All of these people made the ultimate sacrifice because, even in the face of threats and oppression, they truly believed what Welby summarised so succinctly on Monday:
 

Service in life, hope in death.



Image | Jacqui J. Sze


Jon Kuhrt works as a Rough Sleeping Adviser to the government specialising in how faith and community groups respond to homelessness, and is a member of Streatham Baptist Church.

This reflection first appeared on his blog Grace and Truth, and is republished with permission


 




Do you have a view? Share your thoughts via our letters' page

 
 
Baptist Times, 21/09/2022
    Post     Tweet
As a British pastor in Albania, Paul Alkazraji has heard many migration stories. In the light of a rise in the number of Albanians crossing the Channel this year, he offers this reflection
Home-educating mother Molly Ashton has drawn together home educators from across the United Kingdom to share their expertise and experience in a new book. She explains more
We may ask the question, ‘What about evangelism in our Union?’ But are we willing to step out of the boat and become the answer to that question? By William Wade
Dave Gregory is listening to children’s voices of wonder and lament over climate change - and wonders if we are letting their painful words shape both us, and our community's response
Why these stunning images point to a creator. By Chris Goswami
The reflections of a teenager whose parents served on an Urban Expression team
     The Baptist Times 
    Posted: 23/11/2022
    Posted: 15/11/2022
    Posted: 22/09/2022
    Posted: 15/09/2022
    Posted: 13/09/2022
    Posted: 12/09/2022
    Posted: 05/09/2022
    Posted: 25/08/2022
    Posted: 12/08/2022
    Posted: 19/07/2022
    Posted: 01/07/2022
    Posted: 20/05/2022
    Posted: 28/04/2022
    Posted: 15/04/2022
    Posted: 12/04/2022
    Posted: 24/03/2022
    Posted: 16/03/2022
    Posted: 01/03/2022