The unchanging message

Arthur Middleton

In a sermon, Lancelot Andrewes charges those who are rich, that having wealth to do good, they must do it. If they fail to do it then they cannot claim to have any faith

or religion in them. Taking the point from the epistle of St James that if anyone has the wherewithal to demonstrate their faith they must do so. The failure to do so only shows there is nothing to show. This point is as valid today as it was four hundred years ago when Andrewes made it and even two thousand years ago when St James made it.

In her book Lancelot Andrewes, the Perennial Preacher, Marianne Dorman uses the word in this sense that what Andrewes preached and stood for is still relevant today. Many of Andrewes’ contemporaries disregarded Christian values, the importance of a right relationship with God and the Church’s traditional practices and belief.

In an Ash Wednesday sermon he emphasizes that we are not to be left to ourselves alone for prayer, fasting, Sacrament, nay for religion too, now and all. He admits that our personal prayer is a good thing but ‘For God’s sake … let us not be left altogether to ourselves… but let us be ordered to come to Church, and do it there… let us have our days appointed and our hours set for it…’ His challenge is that in prayer, fasting and Sac rament, let us keep the days and times established by the Church and so join with each other in church.

These words must ring a bell in this generation where there is such an indifference to these things even among church members. Andrewes’ preaching in this twenty-first century would be much on these same themes. So the message is unchanging. The message of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, Lent, Passiontide, Easter, Ascension, Whitsuntide will always bring their unchanging message because they are essentially what the Christian faith is about – the coming of God in Christ. He comes to us in the Sacrament and for Andrewes, to receive Christ’s body at the Eucharist is the most wonderful and important thing we do

For us as for Andrewes it is a difficult time for the Church, our own Church, the Anglican Communion. There is a kind of dysfunctionalism about it and the threat of militant Islam. The English Church, the Mother Church of a worldwide Anglican Communion, is locked in another crisis over moral and doctrinal issues. Andrewes lived in the early stages of the Post-Reformation in the Church of England, which was still seeking her true identity and threatened by Puritans who deplored the Book of Common Prayer and episcopacy, which for them smacked of Popery. For Andrewes, following Richard Hooker and other Anglican divines, his emphasis was on upholding the faith as taught by the Fathers and only disregarding those practices and beliefs that were contrary to that; so he helped to give the English Church a healthy balance between old Catholicism and reform. ND