Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Senior Sermon

I gave this yesterday in the CDSP chapel.

Feast of Edward Bouverie Pusey

Matthew 13:44-52

Have you ever lost your voice?

Have you ever had laryngitis?
A nasty cold?
A sore throat?

You know how frustrating it is,
when you can’t get the words out,
for a day, or two… a week.

But what about when it pains you not to speak?

Do you know what it’s like,
to be silenced?

Have you ever opened your mouth,
and the people you were speaking to
could not—
or would not—
hear you?

Have you ever been made to keep quiet,
when every cell in your body was shouting?

Have you ever told the truth… and paid for it?

Edward Bouverie Pusey was a founder of the Oxford Movement,
which was a revival movement in the 1830’s and 1840’s
in the Church of England,
centered at Oxford University.

Quoting from a biography,
“Fundamental to the movement
was “an appeal to the Fathers as interpreters of Scripture,
and a sacramentalism of nature and the world,
into which the sacraments of the Church fitted easily.”[1]
They pushed forward by reaching back,
and their ideals were high-church.
Today’s Anglo-Catholics have something of
the spirit of it.

Pusey was a good friend of John Henry Newman,
who became a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.
When Newman went to Rome,
leadership in the movement rested on Pusey’s shoulders.

He spent his entire academic life at Oxford.
He was a student there,
and then a professor of Hebrew.
He studied Arabic and Syriac,
as well as other languages.

Communication was his thing.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts says this about him:

“His most influential activity was his preaching—catholic in content, evangelical in his zeal for souls. But to many of his more influential contemporaries, it seemed dangerously innovative. A sermon preached before the University in 1843 on “The Holy Eucharist, A Comfort to the Penitent” was condemned without his being given an opportunity to defend it, and he himself was suspended from preaching for two years.”[2]

His sermon was condemned for sounding too Catholic;
for including passages such as this one:

“And so, where His Flesh is, there he is, and we receiving it, receive Him, and receiving Him are joined on to Him through His flesh to the Father, and He dwelling in us, dwell in Him, and with Him in God. ‘I,’ He saith, ‘in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.’ This is the perfection after which all the rational creation groans, this for which the Church, which hath the first fruits of the Spirit, groaneth within herself, yea this for which our Lord Himself tarrieth, that His yet imperfect members advancing onwards in Him, and the whole multitude of the Redeemed being gathered into the One Body, His whole Body should, in Him, be perfected in the Unity of the Father. And so is He also, as Man, truly the Mediator between God and Man, in that being as God, One with the Father, as man, one with us, we truly are in Him who is truly in the Father. He, by the truth of the Sacrament, dwelleth in us, in Whom, by nature all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth.”[3]

I wanted to let you hear him speak for himself.

Ironically, his whole point
in sharing his view about how the Eucharist unifies
humanity with God (and that goes on for 32 pages)
was to comfort sinners.
He thought he’d come down too harshly on penitents,
in earlier sermons,
and he wanted to give them hope.
He wanted them to know that God loved them,
and was with them.

To us, that would be almost a non-issue.
If you ask each of us what we believe about the Eucharist,
you’d get a range of answers.
We might be advised on what not to say on the GOE,
but we wouldn’t be condemned.

But for writing this about what happens when we receive Communion,
and for speaking it publicly,
the University of Oxford suspended Edward Pusey
from preaching for two years.

Think about it.
Oxford had been his home for something like 25 years.
More than half his life, in 1843.
He was chair of the Hebrew department.
A language scholar.
A communicator.
And, he was also a priest.
Preaching was a tremendous part of his life.
It would have been an inner compulsion.
A calling. Like we know.
And suddenly, he couldn’t do it at home,
in the place that had always embraced him.
He was cut off from participating in his community
in a way that was vital to him.

In our time and place,
there are other options.
We might think, “I’ll just go somewhere else.
Get a different job.
Preach to people who will be more receptive to me.”

No. He didn’t leave the university.
Even after his friend John Henry Newman went to Rome,
he didn’t leave the church.
He stayed an Anglican, and an Oxford professor,
because that was his life. That was his way of being faithful to the Gospel.

A man found a treasure hidden in a field.
He went and sold all that he had,
and bought that field.

Jesus is saying, the Kindom of God is worth
all that you have
and all that you have ever had
and all that you can imagine having.

This is the vision that Edward Pusey served.
He sacrificed his voice for two years,
and whatever additional advancement
the university would have given him,
had he not preached that sermon,
to serve the truth that God forgives and loves us all
and the Eucharist is how we experience that love.

Parables have multiple layers of meaning.
They are ways of telling the truth
by tugging at your soul
and making you hear something in a different way
for the first time.

Can you hear something else in the story of the buried treasure?
People don’t bury valuables in the ground anymore;
that’s what safety deposit boxes are for.
But in Jesus’ time and place,
it was common—
particularly under occupation.
If you wanted something to stay safe,
you buried it.
You might have to move, quickly,
and you couldn’t throw it in the trunk of your car
and pack it with you.
Then, if it was ever safe to come home,
you could dig it up.

A man buried his treasure in a field.
Another man found it,
and sold all that he had to buy it.

I can also hear Jesus saying,
“Don’t bury your treasure.”
Because it will be found.
And it will be given.
You are called,
and you can not help it.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.

The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price.

The kingdom of heaven is like…
the most precious thing that any of us can imagine.
But the Reign of God is not an abstraction.
John Kater—
God bless him,
I’m pulling this directly out of my notes from his Ethics class last fall—
defines the Reign of God
as the way into understanding what Jesus is about.
It is shalom: deep peace,
true wholeness.
It happens when God’s will is done.

We help to create the conditions for the Kindom,
when we do the will of God.
Ministry is what we do to embody
and celebrate the Reign of God.

Ministry takes all kinds of forms.
we are all doing ministry.
And we are all learning what that ministry will be
and what it will mean to the creation,
and the people,
whom we serve.

St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel at all times.
When necessary, use words.”
We are all called to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So. Do not fear the consequences.
Take everything you know about the Reign of God,
and everything you’re learning.
Take courage.
Breathe deeply.

And speak the truth in love and joy!

Let us hear you.

[1] Cummings, Owen F. Eucharistic Doctors: A Theological History. (New York: Paulist, 2005), 241.
[2] LFF 2003, p. 372.
[3] “The Holy Eucharist A Comfort to the Penitent.” Bound in Pusey’s University Sermons. (Oxford: 1843), 14-15. (Each sermon has its own pagination.)


Anonymous said...


I love it!

God bless you and all that you are doing,


John-Julian, OJN said...

And what few people know about Edward Pusey ts that after ordination at Oxford, he rose at 4 am every morning and celebrated what would then have been called "The Holy Communion" with family, servants and occasional friends and students.

Mother Laura said...

I never knew about Pusey's silencing...thank you for this powerful sermon. It's rare and welcome to see the lessons and saint's life treated together and well.