The Reverend David Pape in Southwark gave this sermon yesterday. It is the best piece of writing on the debacle unfolding at St. Paul's because it touches on the simplicity of the Christian message, the moral mandate of the Church and, most important of all, the central purpose of a Church.
This is the sermon:
'Today, I am focusing on the St.Paul's situation because I am very worried that this building, dedicated to God's glory and symbolic of the faith of the people in this country appears to be compromising not only its' own symbolism but the very future of the Christian faith in this country.
It appears that the senior decision makers at St. Paul's are trying to serve two master. It worked to allow protesters the right to peacefully enamp in its precinct, in order that they might speak out against the excesses of a material and capitalist system that seems unmoved by the plight of the poor and the needy. But, having done so, the Cathedral's earthly overlords in the City of London and the financial business world appear to have since put pressure on St.Paul's to silence their critics and end the protest.
Any excuse will do! Health & Safety rules and regulations seemed to have been invoked (what 'rules' and by 'whom'?) Yet, just as quickly as the front doors of St. Paul's were closed they opened again on Friday lunchtime without any indication of what changes had been made to comply with those rules. To me, at least, it seemed that St.Paul's had shut their doors on God and I am not sure that God is now ready or keen to go back in.
The Church's patron, Paul, was a tentmaker and would have probably smiled on those who stood up for the poor and needy, particularly those in the precinct of the Cathedral. Paul was also a Roman citizen who used his citizenship and relationship with the Roman overlords to proclaim his ministry. Paul, however, was prepared to die at the hands of Rome in order to stand up for his faith in God.
And unlike many of today's protests which are sometimes hijacked by political and anarchic activists this protest has not yet declined into violence. The media also seems a little confused. Whilst some newspapers questioned the sincerity and commitment of the tent-dwellers others have allied themselves to the protesters, anxious of the opportunity to swing a boot at the established CoE.
Now is the time for truly concerned clergy to preach the gospel of Christ in their actions as well as their words because we all have much to be concerned about.
Whilst we moan and groan at the way our banks and financial institutions are being run we still continue to support them with our savings and our business. We place more faith in them than we do in God. We supports governments of various political shades who, all to often, bow to the whims of big business rather than represent the people whom they are elected to serve.
We too need to be mindful of how we invest our resources in others and in ourselves. We too need to invest in God and to 'give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's.
St.Paul's had to deal and work with the powers that be but did so without compromising his faith in God. He realised that those who expect and receive remuneration in exhange for compromise will ultimately pay the price of that cooperation. However, he also realised that his indebtedness to God far overshadowed his indebtedness to any earthly power and gave his life for it. Perhaps some of his words from Philippians (Chapter 4) might help us to hold onto God.
'...Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.'
We know St.Paul worked to this end but what about the Cathedral built for the glory of God which bears his name?