Give thanks to God for the Diamond Evangelist
Who is the evangelist in the Church of England with the most reach?
A media-friendly bishop or one of the smooth-talking radio clerics on the BBC or a Christian celebrity associated with the Alpha Course?
None of them, by a wide margin. The most effective evangelist in the Church of England is a church-going lady in her 80s. Here is what she said to millions of people all around the world a few months ago: “God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, restore friendships, and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
She then went on to say: “It is my prayer that on this Christmas Day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”
From Her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas Day broadcast to the Commonwealth.
The republic of South Yorkshire is not particularly monarchist if we are honest and there may be understandable historical reasons for distrust of the southern political and social establishment. Certainly, the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee are rather low-profile compared to the efforts of other communities around the United Kingdom.
But we, as the Anglican parish church in this South Yorkshire community, have a responsibility to be counter-cultural in this regard because Her Majesty is the Supreme Governor of the Church by law established to which we belong and the Defender of the biblical and evangelical Faith we profess.
In our epistle reading from 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote to the pastor of the church in Ephesus during the 1st century AD: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1Tim 2:1-2 [NIV]).
The 1st-century monarchs and governors Paul urged prayer for had serious executive, judicial and political power. It is true that Her Majesty has little power compared to them but she still has constitutional and legal authority in the governance of the United Kingdom and so should be prayed for by Christian people in our country, as should the elected political leaders with the real executive power.
And it goes without saying that Her Majesty’s moral authority vastly exceeds that of our elected politicians.
A nonchalant, disengaged, ‘whatever’ attitude towards the governance of our country is not on for Christian people. The gospel message we believe and proclaim requires good order for its successful progress. Yes, the gospel can spread in disordered circumstances but it spreads so much more effectively in well-ordered, well-governed, peaceable societies.
The good news of the Lord Jesus Christ spread rapidly under the Pax Romana as it did under the Pax Britannica.
We Christians are called to pray to God for peace certainly because war damages people but also because peace and stability and good social order allow for the spread of the saving truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul taught that Christian prayer for peaceful, ordered, stable social conditions is “good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Tim 2:3-4).
Good governance is good for the gospel.
Good governance is good for the saving truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Good governance is good for evangelism.
Let us earnestly pray for it and not take stability for granted. We are, I would suggest, a generation away from serious social disorder on this island of Britain.
And what is the content of the truth we are to proclaim in the society for whose peace, good order and stability we are to pray?
Paul summarised the saving truth Christians are called to proclaim to the world: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.”
Notice Paul’s emphasis on one God, not many gods; one mediator, not many mediators; the man, not a man; and all people everywhere, not some people in certain parts of the world.
The one true creator God offers eternal salvation to all people on the basis of faith in the one mediator he has provided, the man Christ Jesus.
The man’s life given up in death upon the Cross paid the price which the justice of the one true God required for the forgiveness of the sins of all people.
That is the truth Christians are to proclaim. It is not a truth but the Truth.
That is why Christians should be thankful that Her Majesty promised at her Coronation to defend the Faith, not a faith.
A faith does not save anybody for eternity. It is the Faith in the one mediator between the one God and humanity which saves all who put their trust in the man Christ Jesus.
So on this Diamond Jubilee weekend, we give thanks to the one true God for the finest evangelist in the Church of England, but supremely we give thanks for the one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all.
This Jubilee sermon was preached today by the Rev’d Julian Mann, vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire.