A sermon preached at Evensong by Canon Dr Tom Clammer, Precentor
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
At first glance there would appear to be splendid contradiction between the two readings we heard this evening. The first reading containing the words, “God said to Moses, you should look for able men among all the people… Let them sit as judges for the people at all times.”, And the second lesson beginning with the words, attributed to Jesus, “do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” For people looking for knockdown arguments against the veracity of the Scriptures, this seems like a good place to start.
But of course the readings are about much more than ‘judging’, whatever that might have meant in old or new Testament times. The readings are about the nature of a community of people who want to live together under the guidance and the rule of God.
The first reading, really, is about a balanced diary! God is saying to Moses in this snippet of Exodus, look you really can’t do all this on your own. If you don’t start to delegate you are going to go insane! So God gives Moses a really sensible piece of advice, which is share your ministry. The ministry is serious, and particularly serious is that careful attentive listening to people when conflict arises, as so often it does in any community. Believe me, I know. So do you, no doubt. But the counsel of God to Moses is against overwork, against obsessive control freakery, against forgetting that we are not the most important, and the most essential person in our lives. Ministry is to be shared. We are a family, not a dictatorship.
Which is why we need to look at least as hard at ourselves as each other. It is why we have to hold each other accountable, to trust our friends, our colleagues, when occasion reminds us that there is a huge great plank sticking out of our own eye, and that it might be worth doing something about that before worrying about the bit of grit that we suspect they might have in their life. Everything Jesus is talking about in our second reading, from towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount, is about that important balance between attention to our own life, material and spiritual, and attention to the life of the community. We belong together. We flourish when we flourish together.
And these are good readings to hear at a service for the admission and promotion of boy choristers. Archie, Thomas, Sammy, Benjamin, Charlie and Zeeshan, this is a great day for you. A celebration. A reminder to all of us here of the fact that we pause for a few moments in the stalls of this Cathedral Church. Like so many other choristers before you, you now take your place as members of this choir, or as officers within it. And your ministries, like your voices, blend into the whole. We do this thing together.
The Bible often refers to the Christian community as a choir. A choir is an excellent metaphor for how family ought to work: individual voices, with their own particular tone, range and sound blending into a harmony. Families are not made up of identical people. Can you imagine how horrific that would be! Our call, like that of Moses and his judges, or the early disciples of Christ, is to live out our ministry in an awareness that we do this thing together, and that by trying to do it together we are trying to be more like God. Amen.