Sermon for the Feast of Ss Joachim and Anne, Sunday 2nd August 2020

        

                                                   

In the name of…

for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Saint Joachim and Ana are understandably close to my heart. They were the parents of the blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus’ grandparents. Although not mentioned in the New Testament, they quickly became a prominent part of the Church tradition from a very early point in Christian history. Their significance is really brought to bear in what they represent, which is the importance of protection and upholding of marriage and family life within the church.

Our reading from Romans today is one that got the great Swiss Church Reformer the founder of Calvinism, Jean Calvin very hot under the collar about because it mentions pre-destination, St Paul says ‘those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’. Pre-destination basically comes from the idea that if God knows everything, he knows the future, and if he knows the future he knows what we are going to do before we do it, so he already knows if we are going to heaven or not. So Calvin came up with this idea of the ‘elect’ i.e. those going to heaven, and the ‘damned’ everyone else. The problem with this is that if you are damned anyway…. why bother? You might as well do whatever you like as you are going to hell regardless. But the bigger problem with this is that if you are saved anyway… why bother? It all gets a bit too fatalistic really. I think the weather probably has quite a lot to do with Calvinism, it’s a pretty cold and harsh theology that thrives in cold harsh environments like Switzerland and indeed Scotland where it is a mainstay of Presbyterianism. Warmer countries tend to have more joyful theology! Having said that, pre-destination features in the 17th of the 39 Articles, and is part of the reason the Methodist church ultimately ceded from us. Indeed as we have seen with the giving in both kinds, our Church doesn’t appear to be too keen on the Articles at present. But I digress.

Predestination is one of those things that drives you a bit loopy if you think about it too much, but I think, as with most things it is when we are confronted with ideas of God we struggle to get our minds around them because they are simply beyond us. We should really, be content to know our place in the order of Creation I think.

Much easier for us to understand I think, is the idea that God has a plan for our lives, he blesses us with certain gifts for us to use to serve him. We don’t always use our gifts wisely, we all make mistakes but we are blessed by them nonetheless. Joachim and Ana offer us an example of a life which was blessed and fulfilled in family life in the raising of their daughter Mary whose life was also blessed and fulfilled through family life in giving birth to the Son who showed us all the way to the Father of us all. The family is under huge strain in society largely because we have placed priority on individual wants and desires ahead of the bonds of relationship. The changes to marriage law being pushed through parliament at the moment to allow for a ‘no fault divorce’ are symptomatic of this because it assumes we remain individuals even in marriage, thus doing away with the idea that marriage bonds a couple together ‘as one flesh’.

We as a church therefore need the example of Ana and Joachim more now than ever as society itself needs a renewal of family life. We are who we are because of our relationships, firstly through our relationship with God the Father through Christ the saviour and secondly through our relationships to others. St Paul today speaks of us as being predestined to be a part of the family of God, family because the bond is one that binds us together intimately as the body of Christ.

As we remember Joachim and Ana today I urge you all to pray earnestly for family life particularly at this time of unique strain. I know some families found the lockdown to be a real blessing as they were able to put aside many every-day cares and concerns and re-connect with each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a baby boom next year. But for many many others the strain was intolerable and it is for them that we must particularly offer our prayers at this time.

 

In the name of…..

 

                     

Top photos: Crusader Church built on the site of Ss Joachim and Anne's home near Sepporis

Bottom photos: The Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem


Printer Printable Version