BELIEF AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

Sermon delivered on the First Sunday after Easter the 23rd April 2017 by Bishop Nicholas JG Sykes in the congregation of St. Alban's, George Town Church of England in the Cayman Islands.

Scriptures: Acts 2: 14a, 22-32     1 Peter 1: 3 - 9     S. John 20: 19 - 31

1 Peter 1:8 "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory."

THE UNCOVERING OF THE REAL BELIEF
It is often said that actions speak louder than words. John Newman taught many years ago that actions flow from a man's real belief. A person's belief, whether it be right or wrong, true or untrue, will not remain hidden, but will sooner or later be revealed in his actions.

This is the case for individuals, for Churches and for countries. What we do will reveal, for instance, whether we truly believe that the crucified Jesus was raised incorruptible. The Church officially says, "That's true." We say, "That's true": for we say it every time we say the Creed. The United Kingdom, the Cayman Islands and many other countries say, "That's true" when they make Easter Monday a public holiday every year, representing their nod of the head to the meaning of the Christian Easter. Such belief is truly blessed, as Jesus affirmed: "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe." The voices of unbelief and betrayal, though, like the tares in the midst of the wheat, are very strong, and the social philosophy of multicultural equality is often given to justify them. In spite of the orthodox creeds of the Church, there are voices high in positions of authority in the Churches who teach that the Resurrection of Jesus is essentially only a symbol of human renewal, only a symbol that faith can triumph over defeat, and that the greatness of Jesus lay not in an objective victory but in His faithfulness to Himself through ultimate defeat. Furthermore, it could be dangerous, these voices contend, to think of the Resurrection as an event unique to the one Man Jesus Christ, because that would mean that Jesus was in a unique manner the way to God; yet in a multi-cultural society one cannot but teach that all the religions of mankind teach a truth about the pathway to God. So the solution, say these voices, is to "demythologise" the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, ignore and discard the recorded and current witness to it, assume that its meaning is not unique to Jesus of Nazareth, and take it as applying with equal validity to man in general. Resurrection is then taught as the great symbol of man's inherent capacity to rise up and conquer all that oppresses him. Thus in some churches in recently secularised countries our first hymn 134 on Easter Day, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today - Alleluiah”, would have been sung with the words “Glorious Hope has risen today - Alleluiah.”

RECOGNISE THE INFLUENCE OF THE NEW WORLD-VIEW
This could be one of the very neatest ways of undermining in the heart of the Church the Faith once delivered and renewed by the Holy Spirit, age after age, in every generation up to the present day. It is critically important for us to recognise this when it occurs; as faith can still prevent a slide into the spiritual and ethical morass resulting from this process. And the assumptions of a radically multi-cultural world-view are truly being brought to bear heavily upon a small community like Cayman that traditionally identifies itself as "Christian". The ticking time-bomb of radical secularism, which if it is not given a balanced rebuttal by you and others in Christian congregations, is capable of blowing our Christian identification to smithereens and carrying down a society into chaos. The Cayman Islands, like the United Kingdom and other great societies, must not be afraid to regard itself as a Christian home in which Christians especially may find a welcome; and must refute the notion of being a lodge without any principles of its own by which lodgers of all sorts may find guidance.

LOSS OF BELIEF IN THE RESURRECTION UNCOVERED IN THE CHURCH
The loss of belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the root of our deepest ills as individuals, as the Church and as the Christian West. St. Paul taught that the risen life of Christ organically empowers the life that we ourselves may and must possess as members of His Body. Our spiritual walk is the calling to be transformed from being "in Adam" to being "in Christ ". It is this life that gives us the power to act as His disciples and as members of His risen and ascended Body. His risen life is the bounty from which the Holy Spirit draws graces to bestow on each of us who have died and risen again with Him by water and the Spirit. As St. Peter says in the 2nd lesson today, God in His great mercy gave us new birth to a living hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has regenerated us to a living hope. The power of the Resurrection is like the restoration of electrical power in an area whose power lines have been down for some time, a circumstance which many of us in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac can remember. There is actual power in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, to which we do not have access if we are cut off from it through disbelief. If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not to be believed, then the Church's doctrine all falls apart, because there is no witness to the atoning efficacy of Jesus' Sacrifice. Then there would be no assurance of divine forgiveness, no regeneration of a living hope within us, and the Eucharist too would be a mockery, because you cannot give thanks as a memorial to the defeat of the good by the evil. And while we commemorated the life of St. George today we would not have noticed that the dragon had prevailed.

DOCTRINAL COLLAPSE
For without a belief in the Resurrection of Jesus, our apprehension of the Incarnation falls also. The doctrine of the Incarnation is the teaching that the Son, the eternal Word of God, took to Himself the nature of Man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, so that in Christ the Godhead and the Manhood were joined together in one Person. The Resurrection of Christ witnesses to this also, because if there were no Resurrection, Man would not have been eternally taken into God and the God-Man Personhood of our Lord would have been dissolved at His death.

THE RENEWAL OF TRADITIONAL BELIEF
In one way or another, the mainline Churches today are characterised by the hiding of their essential doctrines. For years the Church's spokesmen have been more than hesitant to declare their theological groundwork. This is exactly what must be expected with a loss of belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, growing like a germinated seed in the midst of the chaotic Church scene today is the phenomenon of apostolic belief, and it is my earnest hope, trust and effort that we become more and more part of this growth too. In the context of the Cayman society the seed mission of our church is to tend and feed the life of the community of Cayman at its Christian root. This could be called the practice of Christian radicalism. Yet still there will be no renewal of any sort, and our own calling as a Church will be unattainable, if belief in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is not proclaimed among ourselves. Though we have not seen Him, love Him, believe Him and rejoice! says St. Peter. It is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that regenerates us to a living hope. Our hope of renewal and reconstruction as individuals, as the church and as a Christian society rests squarely upon the Resurrection of our Lord.

QUESTIONS

1. Is there a basic conflict between the modern world-view and faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? If so, what is the nature of the conflict? (Necessary, imaginary, objective, subjective?)
2. How does the Resurrection undergird the covenant relational view of Man rather than an individual rights view?
3. What are some of the characteristics of European radical secularism?
4. What Christian characteristics of the Cayman society would you like to see preserved? What failures to live up to this might make it more vulnerable to secularism?