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Friday, 1 July 2016

Mission & values: Ends don't justify means

Here is my sermon from yesterday's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook, which was the first Eucharistic celebration by Revd Sally Muggeridge for our congregation:

Have you ever wondered why it is considered good practice for organisations to have a values statement as well as a mission statement? The answer is that ends don't justify means, so that the way in which we achieve our goal is as important as the achieving of that goal.

This is what our two readings taken together suggest to us (1 Peter 3. 8-15 & Luke 5. 1 – 11). In the Gospel reading we hear that Jesus' disciples are called to fish for or catch people by sharing the good news of the coming kingdom of God. That is our goal, the end towards which we work; our mission. In the Epistle, believers in the early Church are encouraged to act in ways which are consistent with the life of Christ. They, and we, are called to have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, a humble mind, not to repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but to repay with a blessing. These are our values and the means by which we attain our goal. Our call, therefore, is to become people of integrity where there is a developing connection between what we do and the way that we do it. After all, as the song says, ‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. And that’s what gets results.’

We hear this call today in the light of Sally's call to the priesthood and her priesting in a wonderful service on Sunday, that many of us from St Stephen Walbrook were able to attend. We celebrate Sally's response to the call to share good news as a priest and give thanks for the way in which she lives it out in this parish. However, we mustn't allow our joy at Sally's priesting to distract us from the challenge of these passages for us, because the reality is that as Christ's followers we are all called to share the good news and to live out our faith in ways that are an imitation of Christ.

Tomorrow’s commemoration of the Battle of the Somme reminds us that there are times when it is necessary to do this despite the odds against us and questions regarding the validity of decisions made by those in leadership. One soldier in a letter home wrote: ‘… in case the unexpected happens I shall rest content with the knowledge that I have done my duty – and one can’t do anymore.’ In  that arena of war, he, together with the many who died, was articulating his integrity.

My colleague Sam Wells, Vicar at St Martin-in-the-Fields, expressed similar sentiments about maintaining our Christian integrity in a statement he made on Sunday in response to the Brexit vote. He said:

‘We pray that this nation finds a kinder, gentler way of talking about immigration. But even if it does not, St Martin’s will remain a place of hospitality and belonging to those on whom our society has turned its back. We pray that the UK, or what’s left of it, continues to be a model of tolerance, diversity, and respect. But even if it does not, St Martin’s will still be a place that seeks to be a blessing to all in our country. We pray that our democracy discovers a way to vote not in fear and self-interest, but in hope and pursuit of the common good. But even if it does not, St Martin’s will continue to be a community that judges democracy by how safe it is to find yourself in the minority. We pray that the church in this land will come to be regarded by all as a home for the outcast and a refuge for the least and the lost. But even if it does not, St Martin’s will continue to worship a God who in Christ is made known in the hungry and the stranger. We believe it’s possible to build together a community of humility, generosity, gratitude, grace, truth and compassion – for which the only word we know is church. We’re called to be a living example of what the reconciling, liberating and transforming love of God can do. It may be that a witness like ours can begin to heal our country and inspire it to take a different, more inclusive and more hopeful direction. But even if it does not, we’re going to do it anyway.’

Similarly, in the mission statement for this church we say that we are here to proclaim, celebrate and promote the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone in the City - visitors, workers, residents and the business community. In our values statement we say that we aim to be a safe, welcoming space and community which is open to all because we seek to value compassion, diversity, freedom, tolerance and personal/social renewal.

Will you join us in this mission and in living these values by contributing to our ongoing and developing mission and ministry? Like Sally, have you heard the call?


The Pipes & Drums of the 1st Battalion Argyll, Sutherland Highlanders - Medley: The Battle of the Somme / The Highlanders Entry into Crater / The Dag Shai Hills.

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