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Home Who's who Bishops The Bishop of Salisbury Sermons, articles and media Sermon at St Thomas’s, Salisbury, on 15 April 2018

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Sermon at St Thomas’s, Salisbury, on 15 April 2018

by Gerry Lynch last modified 19 Apr, 2018 06:17 PM

Bishop Nicholas preached at a service of Celebration of the Community Life of the City of Salisbury at St Thomas’s in the city following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Texts: Luke 10.25-37; Rev 21.1-5a, 22.1-5

The Rector thanked everyone and as bishop I want to thank him and the people of St Thomas for this service and Kelvin for his outstanding leadership in the city these last weeks.

Some in the local community have been very badly affected in a variety of ways, but Salisbury has shown itself to be resilient. Today we celebrate the life of our city and ask God to cleanse, heal and bless our city which we reclaim for the common good.

It is to say the obvious that Salisbury is a cathedral city built around the Christian Gospel. The reading from Barney Norris’s book spoke, like George Herbert the poet and parish priest of Bemerton, of the cathedral pointing to “God in ordinary”, in the ordinary day to day stuff of our existence. Christians assert, because of the resurrection of Christ, that goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death. In this Eastertide we want to look forward to new life and resurrection.

A crisis is both a moment of judgement and an opportunity. We should not waste a crisis, we should use it to ensure that good comes from it, as to some extent we already have.

Our values have been tested and we can be grateful for what we have found to be true and good among us. At every level people have tried to do the right thing in response to wickedness and to care for our neighbour. Outstanding public service has shone through the responses to what has happened. A great deal of kindness has been shown in good neighbourliness.

As a city, Salisbury has rarely talked better with itself, with the County and with Government about what we want for ourselves. Some of it is very pragmatic – compensation for lost income because of a damaged economy, free car parking to encourage people back into the city centre, national assistance with the cost of local policing and so on.

But the bigger questions that have the capacity to set new direction are about the sort of city and people we want to be.  The role of the recovery board has the potential to be about so much more than recovery if it can be forward looking and renew a vision for Salisbury which the County Council will need in the long-term to support.

The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. In the reading from the end of the book of Revelation, we are given a vision of society in which God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven, in which people are renewed, belong together and live in peace. The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations.

What happened was very local and unpleasant but the implications are now global and have made many of us deeply uneasy about the peace of our world. The Church is local everywhere which is why it is good to be reminded by music from the Russian Church in this service of what can happen when we pray together.

Vision informs our choices. The message we want to give from Salisbury is not just that this city is open for business but that we are built around a cathedral and seek to live in response to the Christian faith. What we have seen in the last few weeks is the connection between the local and global. What we want locally is to live at peace with one another.

In Salisbury we have had a small taste of what it is to live with violence and terror in such a way as to open our sympathies and care for others in the war torn parts of the world. Our prayer is that what happened in this city will not add to the destabilisation of the world but that our response will be among those many small actions that makes for a more excellent way by which people prosper, care for the earth and build peace because of love.

We pray not just that God will bless Salisbury but that God will bless the world God loves so much as to send God’s only Son to redeem and renew us.

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