Summary: Dr Syn’s sermon
Dr Syn’s sermon:
(The initial story is taken from the Book Dr. Syn- I am playing the part in an eighteenth century Evensong)
Just the other day, I was round at the Court House for a port with Captain Collyer, the Squire and Dr Pepper.
And the conversation turned to the subject of the Southern Seas and then to the execution of that notorious pirate Captain Clegg.
The dear Captain was of the opinion that Clegg had not indeed been hanged at Rye.
But the mystery of it, at least for the good Captain, was that Clegg had persuaded someone else to commit wilful murder and thereby be hanged – as Clegg in his place.
For Sir Anthony this was all too fanciful and he suggested that the Captain would be telling us next that Queen Anne wasn’t dead either.
It was the Captain’s next comment that has struck me most forcefully and I just can’t seem to get it out of my head
“Queen Anne is dead because she was not fortunate enough to persuade someone else to die for her. Now I maintain that is exactly what Clegg did do. He persuaded someone to die in his place.”
As Collyer spoke, my mind wondered back to the book of Romans in the Bible and to Chapter 5, which the good Squire read to us this afternoon. And in particular verse 5 which said:
“God demonstrated his own love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Who, you might ask, was this man Jesus Christ, who was good enough – and loved me enough to die in my place for my sins?
Indeed how come we have over 329 churches in this Diocese alone dedicated to a man who lived so long ago – and who wasn‘t even an Englishman?
What do we know about Jesus Christ?
He was born in an obscure village, Bethlehem in Judea which was a backwoods in the Roman Empire.
He was the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty.
Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He did not go to Oxford or Cambridge.
He never visited a big city, other than Jerusalem.
He didn’t go to Rome, Athens or Alexandria - the three great cities of the Roman Empire – which were the sort of places you went to - if you were going to start a career in philosophy or religion.
He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.
He did none of the things associated with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty three years of age when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away.
He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.
When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Eighteen centuries have come and gone and today he remains the central figure of the human race.
He is the leader of mankind’s progress.
Someone once said:
All the armies that ever marched,
All the navies that ever sailed,
All the parliaments that ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned,
put together have not affected the life of man on this planet so much as that one solitary life.
So just what sort of man was he – that his effect is still felt today?
Well this is what that French scoundrel, Napoleon Bonaparte had to say about him:
“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force.
Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him. . . .
I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man; none else is like Him:
Jesus Christ was more than a man. . . .
I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me . . .
but to do this, it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice.
When I saw men and spoke to them, I lightened up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. . .
Christ alone has succeeded - in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen - that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space.