St Bride's: Sermons

History Matters

royal wedding.jpg

Many thousands of words have been written by journalists covering the Royal Wedding last Friday, mostly in praise, a few critical. One particularly negative article caught my eye because it claimed that our reaction to such Royal occasions highlights how much we as a nation live in the past, and how over-obsessed we are with history. And the writer goes on to claim that Britain is a country that still finds in the past a place of safety. 'History', he says, 'can be a curse. In Britain more than in most countries it has been the enemy of the future.'

My response to that is that I couldn't disagree more.

If anything, I think, far from being obsessed with history, today's generation are not interested enough in the history of these islands and how our political and social structures have evolved. And I believe there is a very important theological dimension to this.

I remember a wise theologian once saying that it is very difficult to be a person of faith if you don't have a sense of history. And the reason for that is that faith is about finding meaning and pattern and purpose in life, and you can only do that if you have an understanding of yourself and other people not just as 'now' people, not just blips on a screen, but as part of a living stream of history, whose story stretches backwards into the past, but also looks forward to the future.

If you look at the earliest examples of Christian preaching in the Book of Acts, you find the emphasis is not on proclaiming religious dogma, or duty or moral standards, but on telling a story, the story of a person, Jesus, who lived and died and rose again, but all seen in the context of the pattern of history, beginning with Abraham and flowing through the history of Israel, through Jesus and on into the future. A history that will reach its completion when Jesus Christ returns as Lord of all and judge and Saviour on the Last Day.

Without that sense that there is this overarching pattern to everything, and that we today are a part of that, it is very difficult to hold to the Christian faith, which points to particular events in history as significant moments of disclosure by God of his intention and purpose for his world and for us.

Christianity is a faith which boldly declares that our individual stories, you and me, are all part of the bigger story: that our lives, our feelings, our responses, matter to God.
John, at the end of his Gospel, declares that the reason he has written it is that through belief in Jesus Christ as Son of God, we may become part of the greater Christian story and so fulfil God's plan for his creation. He tells us to look back in order to look forward.

Last Friday was a crucial moment in William and Kate's story, and the story of the monarchy in these islands. We had the privilege of sharing in that moment along with 2 billion others around the world. For us as Christians, and as citizens of this country, history is not a curse, not an enemy of the future: it is the essential lens through which we interpret ourselves, find pattern and meaning, discover God's plan for us and his world and so face the future with confidence and hope.

John and the other Gospel writers are convinced that the story of Jesus is the key to the meaning of life, the universe and everything, and they tell us his story with its Easter ending to invite us to join them in living by it, and so making it our story too. Stories matter, our stories matter, history matters, because through them we can learn to interpret God's story, see Him at work in our world, and make that story our own.

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