Hugh of Lincoln Meets de Doctrina

Well, I was in that frame of mind when I looked at the readings. Here’s this morning’s sermon, not concealed this time in the “extended Entry” field; sorry, I’m not hand-coding that one, at least not till I get the new regular database working.

Anderson Chapel of St. John the Divine, Seabury-Western
Hugh of Lincoln, November 17, 2004
Titus 2:7-8, 11-14/Ps 112:1-9/Matt 24:42-47


Some of you have heard me warn against making unwarranted homiletical generalizations that might exclude some portion of the congregation. When we say, “Everyone has felt that way,” or “we all know the Seinfeld episode where. . . . ,” we risk writing off listeners who haven’t felt that way, or who don’t watch TV. I try to avoid that kind of homiletical generalizations my own self, so it’s a rare treat that I can stand in this holy place today and say, “Almost everyone here has read de Doctrina Christiana” ‚Äì but here, I have reason to believe this is true.

You may remember that in de Doctrina, Augustine urges his readers to adopt lives of integrity, seriousness and sound speech, self-controlled, upright, and godly. He entreats us to develop habits of godly living, not because he thinks this will earn us brownie points with God ‚Äì “stars in your crown,” as our family says about works that have no immediate, obvious reward. We persist in practicing godliness because we can hardly ask our neighbors to accept as true that which our lives proclaim as false. We daily turn again Godward, lest our carelessness suggest to our sisters and brothers that love and charity matter less than convenience and comfort.

Even more horrifying, though, apart from our commitment to orient our lives toward God, who is the only true End for our hopes, our very capacity to understand the truth itself grows numb, clouds over. As we let go the determination incessantly to intertwine our lives with the divine life, we lose our sense of what direction points toward God; we lose the sense of where we might find God, of how we might share in God’s goodness; and we lose interest even in trying. And as fewer and fewer seek the warmth and light of God’s presence, fewer and fewer know what they might be missing.

If we know what we’re missing though ‚Äì if we haven’t quite lost that recollection of the grace of God that appeared, bringing salvation to all, if we haven’t forgotten that peace that marks the presence of God’s Spirit ‚Äì then if we see the Body of Christ afflicted and weak, we may remember also that the health of the body depends on more than just good ideas, well-organized meetings, carefully planned worship, but on the tenuous hope that fallible followers will not finally forget their calling, will keep alive the rumor that God abides among us and awaits our return, that God indeed draws us onward if we let go our determination to dictate the goal to the one who is our Goal.

With each moment of graced kindness, each inconvenient gesture of care-taking, each risky venture in discipleship, we renew the unsettling memory of promised love. With each affirmation of our adherence to God’s Way and each promise of our solidarity with sisters and brothers on this path, we amplify the sound of the still small voice that thunders all through the night, the faint glimmer of light that burns at the gloom of midnight. Listen, for love ‚Äì and teach us the sound of truth; look, for glory ‚Ä쬆and in the hope that we may always grow in godliness, spot that light that shines in the darkness, a beacon of God’s gift of hope, of mercy, of compassion; of God’s righteousness, manifest in us by grace.


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