Cathedral Eucharist, Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 30 June 2013, 10.30am
Preacher: the Vice-provost, the Revd Canon John McLuckie
Another week of blandness, this time of the Episcopal variety. Maybe I’m just getting bored now, but yet again there’s really nothing to write home about. I’d been here before for concerts, but never for a service, but it was pretty much as I had expected it to be.
St Mary’s is architecturally impressive, big on music (though its own choir was on holiday this week, relieved by Peterhouse Chapel Choir, who sang Byrd’s Mass for four voices), and well supplied with clergy – three of them involved in the service, plus assorted other begowned people whose function I didn’t fully understand. And the well-heeled and predominantly elderly congregation lives up to the metaphor about the Tory party at prayer.
The readings were Galatians 5:13-25 and Luke 9:51-62, and the gospel was read from the middle of the aisle after much processing, which all seemed a bit unnecessary. The sermon united both readings on the theme of freedom. According to St Paul, freedom lies not in our liberty from compulsions, but in understanding the nature of our desires and putting them to the service of what is good, and it is achieved by following the path of the spiritual life. The evangelist, on the other hand, shows us how Jesus intended to shock people into re-evaluating their priorities, and that we risk allowing ourselves to be tyrannised if we devote ourselves to family or nation rather than to God. What he definitely doesn’t mean by freedom is the freedom to choose between two dozen brands of triviality; rather, we are free when we recognise our shared humanity. Well, so much for that. Not the most earth-shattering sermon ever preached.
What else? The choir were good, the sung creed (Nicene) was probably the least successful of the congregational endeavours, and the organ was a bit on the crashy side, but it’s a big space to fill. Oh yes, and the final hymn was He who would valiant be, from which the New English Hymnal has expunged the hobgoblin and foul fiend, which I always rather liked for the very reason that they seemed unhymnlike, if that’s a word. It is now.