This week Archbishop Philip joined the Rev Neil Vigers, the Anglican Communion Office Programme Executive for Unity, Faith and Order, and a group of readers from around the Anglican Communion in a pre-recorded liturgy for people unable to leave their homes due to the COVID-19 threat.
Archbishop Philip preached on this Sunday’s reading from John 14:15-21, highlighting the power of God’s love to transform the church and the world and to bring hope, peace and reconciliation to all in those places where love is needed most.
Archbishop Philip Richardson’s sermon follows in full below.
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Kororia ki te Atua ki runga rawa,
kia mau te rongo ki runga ki te whenua,
kia pai whakaaro ki nga tangata katoa!
Glory be to God on high,
and peace to all God’s people on earth!
Talofa lava, Malo o lelei, Ni sa bula, Namaste,
Kia ora koutou and
Greetings to each and everyone of you.
It’s an absolute privilege to speak to you from the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
We do so in the midst of this enormous challenge that the world is facing through the infection of the coronavirus.
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand because of our social isolation, our distance from the rest of the world, the ability to close our borders, and the very definitive action by our Government to place us into lockdown, we have, we know, escaped the worst of the impact to date.
We are just starting to come out of lockdown, we have only about 1500 cases of the infection and only 21 deaths. We recognise and are grateful for just how blest we are and for the intervention and the leadership of our Government.
We are very conscious of how this virus is impacting so severely in many, many parts of the world.
We want to assure you of our love and of our prayer. At seven o’clock on Sunday night, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has encouraged us to do, we light a candle – perhaps the first country in the world to do so – confident that there is a wave of prayer across our beloved Communion – as we pray for each other, as we express our love for each other in prayer.
That power of love is at the heart of the reading from John’s Gospel that we’ve just listened to today.
That sense that God’s power is expressed in love, and that love overcomes all – that at the very heart of who God is, is love.
Augustine of Hippo spent a good deal of his life trying to describe the nature of God the Holy Trinity. There’s a lovely story told of him walking along the seashore, and as he walks along the beach he comes across a small boy.
The boy is digging a massive hole in the sand. Augustine asks the boy “What is it that you are trying to do?” And the boy replies “Bishop Augustine, I am trying to dig a hole that is large enough to contain all the waters of the ocean.”
Augustine is reputed to have said, “Boy, that’s impossible.” To which this very intelligent boy replied, “No more impossible Bishop Augustine, than trying to describe the Holy Trinity.”
Well, it’s true isn’t it? It is impossible to describe the indescribable nature of God.
Where Augustine got to was a very simple and very powerful image.
He described God the Holy Trinity as the Lover, God the Creator of all; the Beloved, God the Son, the Pioneer of our salvation, our Redeemer Jesus Christ; and the love between them as God the Holy Spirit, the advocate and guide, the one who is sent to guard, and to warn, and to revive the church.
This idea, or this experience that we have, is of a love that is uncontainable – a love that just has to bubble out, and burst out of this relationship of the Holy Trinity – this love that flows to the very edges of Creation to those places where love is least known – where there is evil, where there is abuse, where there is violence; there, where love is most needed; God’s love is most available.
The power of that love to transform and redeem is at the heart of the gospel message, it is at the heart of the resurrection.
Martin Luther King, the great civil rights leader in the United States understood the importance of that.
Remember that he said that love is the only power that can turn an enemy into a friend, love is the only power that can transform enmity into reconciliation. Love builds up, love heals – evil breaks down and destroys.
The power of love, a love expressed in and through God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a love which overcame death, even death on a cross, the power of the resurrection – is the hope that we hold out to the world in these troubled times.
May that love, the powerful, healing, redeeming, resurrection love of God, surround you and support you, those that you love and all those in your communities.