Feast of William Temple – November 6, 2017 – Exodus 22:21-27; John 1:9-18
Today I preached at the noon Eucharist for the Feast of William Temple in The Chapel of the Apostles. This sermon originally began as a poem, which I briefly considered reading during the liturgy, but as I adapted it I knew its essence had changed to a more traditional sermon. The preaching event you’ll see in the video is slightly different than the words on the page below. Watching or listening to a sermon is, in my opinion, always preferable to reading it because it keeps you closer to the spirit of the sermon as an event in time and not an object in space. If you chose to do that in this case, you might experience a *slightly* different piece of work.
God took on flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ.
According to William Temple, because of the incarnation, “the personality of every man and woman is sacred.”
I beg to differ.
He obviously never went to diocesan convention. Or to a shopping mall on Black Friday. I guess he never walked down the halls of a seminary during midterms.
But he lived through World War, colonial expansion, and social tension. And surely crazed gunmen existed in his day.
So why didn’t he, like me, see that some of God’s people are barely tolerable?
I know people who check their phones while you’re in the middle of a conversation with them. I know people who commit and then don’t follow through. I know people who come to class unprepared.
As an arrogant, know-it-all seminarian, I’m sure that Temple would agree with me if he were here now. I wish that I could ask him about it.
I know just how it would go: I’d ask,“What annoys you most about other people?” And he’d answer, “They exist.” And I say, “Aha! Then what’s all this stuff about everyone having a sacred personality?”
And he’d reply, “Well, the truth is our common life together can be…exasperating.” And because that’s a word that I used last week to describe a crowded room of clergy, I’d feel really proud.
But then he’d say, “Sure, people are exasperating, but that doesn’t mean they’re not sacred.”
No one has ever seen God—it is God the only son—who has made him known. The Son was known in human form. Because of that our humanity is sacred. Our very beings and those of others are means by which God reveals himself to us. Even though they do things that are quirky, irritating, disagreeable, infuriating, and yes, even evil.
At this point in our conversation, I’d read the first chapter of John again, and realize what Temple is trying to tell me. And what he’s trying to tell you: Focus on Jesus.
But know this: You. Can’t. Live. Up. To. That. Because you’re not God.
But the good news is: You’re still sacred. Sacred doesn’t mean perfect. And sacred doesn’t mean best. Sacred doesn’t even mean good.
But Sacred does mean redeemed.