Friday 17th July 2020 – Basis of Union 5
Romans 7: 4 – 20
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
The unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church have been obscured by the failure and weakness which mar the life of the Church. (5)
We dare to believe that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is often said that if ever you find the perfect church (as in perfect congregation) you shouldn’t join it, because you’ll spoil it. There is a sense in which this is true at an obviously human level, but within the ways of God it is not true that you can spoil the Church. The holiness of the Church cannot be spoiled by my sin, weakness or human frailty, because, in the end, the Church is more than a human society, but is God’s divine creation.
Most of us can identify with Paul’s sense that, however hard we try, and however much we want to, we just can’t always manage to do the right thing. Sometimes that’s just because we are weak and frail human beings. And sometimes it’s just because, well, life is complicated and you can find yourself in some situations where you can only do the least bad thing. I sense that these verses in Romans are the ones that most of us really do understand well.
Our Basis of Union recognises that our failures and weaknesses mar the life of the Church and that sometimes the holiness of the Church is obscured by them. We cannot deny this as we see the impact of scandals and abuses on our reputation and reality. But we also say, with the whole Church, that the holiness of the Church is not a product of our moral rightness, but is a gift, a miraculous gift, from God. This means that, however weak and flawed we are, however bad things get, God is present still within the Church, renewing and reforming and recreating. Where God is present, there is something holy. Even the most flawed among us can hold on to that promise. Take that hope into the weak places of your own life today.
forgive us all for the times
When we ‘bring your church into disrepute’
through our failure and our sin.
And, through our belonging to your Church,
bless us with your holy love,
that we may grow in goodness,
to the glory of your holy name, Amen.