The Voice

Homily at St Philip Evans on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Year B.

The Seven Word Sermon: Follow Jesus only. Reject New Age counterfeits!man-in-chair

Are you ready for, The Voice?

The TV version of ‘The Voice’ has a few celebrities listening to an unseen singer. When one likes what they hear, that one will turn around and choose a candidate to put their faith in.

Among celebrities, there are goodies and baddies. If your name is Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsay, expect lots of stories about what a so-and-so you are. But some celebrities on The Voice are portrayed as ‘goodies’, so you’ll only hear about how they have helped coach their chosen candidate for stardom.

The media also portrays our Church as having goodies and baddies. Pope Francis is definitely a goody. So when he says, ‘Who am I to judge?’ you hear all about it. On the other hand, you won’t hear much reported about the Pope speaking about abortion, though he has said clearly that it is wrong in all circumstances.

These days, Jesus is a goody, too. Most people know that Jesus healed sick people, talked about love, and hung out with those polite society rejected. It’s all true! But that’s only half the story. Today, God’s voice boomed over the water: ‘This is my Son! My favour rests on Him!’

This means we must pay attention to the words Jesus said as well as the things he did. And Jesus said lots of deep things about Himself. ‘I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me!’

These words are very specific, and specific words are more important than general ones. If you were a guest in someone’s home, and your host said said, ‘Make yourself at home here, but please don’t go into my study,’ you couldn’t use the excuse that you had been told you were welcome, in order to go into the study. It’s the same with Jesus. There’s a lot of love, a lot of forgiveness, but some very clear DON’Ts as well.

Jesus is God’s Son. He is God’s clearest Word to us. And He is the only one we can follow to reach Heaven. The early Christians knew this when they composed the prayer which has come down to us as the Gloria. Most Sundays we proclaim:

  • You alone are the Holy One!
  • You alone are the Lord!
  • You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, in the glory of God the Father!

These aren’t just words. They have practical consequences.

Suppose you are invited to friend’s religious wedding ceremony, or to prayers that they say at home, but their religion is not Christian. Can you take part in their prayers? No. We can certainly attend, and be a silent and respectful presence, but that’s as far as we can go.

At a Muslim ceremony, the prayers always affirm that Mohammad is a true prophet of God. But we can’t say Amen to that, because Mohammad taught that Jesus wasn’t God. WE believe He is God just as much as His Father is God.

In a Hindu home, a family might conduct a Puja ceremony to one of the Hindu gods. If we took part in that, we would be saying that one of their gods was a true god. But we believe that Jesus alone is Lord. So WE couldn’t do that without denying Jesus.

The good news is that we don’t have to worry about eating foods connected with other religions. St Paul taught us clearly that food itself cannot harm us as long as we say grace over it. It doesn’t matter if meat is kosher or halal, or food has been used in Hindu or Sikh ceremonies, as long as we pray thanks to Jesus before we eat.

In ancient Rome, before Christianity became legal, if you were suspected of being a Christian, the authorities might arrest you and ask you to offer incense to honour the Emperor as a god. If you gave in and did it, you would be excommunicated from the Church. In those days, it was regarded as one of the three big sins, along with murder and adultery, which only the bishop could forgive!

We worship Jesus alone. This isn’t just arguing about words. It has consequences. Jesus gives us these rules for our own spiritual protection. If we pray to a god who is not Jesus, His Father, or the Holy Spirit, we are seeking to make a connection with something spiritual other than God – and the other spirits which exist don’t care about our well-being. The pulpit is not a place to share bad news stories, but I know of plenty of cases where people have found their peace disturbed because they opened their lives to negative spirits.

Some of you may have tried out different kinds of alternative medicine. Not all of these things are problematic, but we do need to be careful. There are treatments with names like reiki or bioenergy which quite explicitly claim to be rebalancing your spiritual energies. Others are more subtle, but if you ask the practitioners why they do certain things in reflexology, say,  or acupuncture, they may give a similar explanation. Sometimes the therapist will even say that what they are doing is using ‘Christ energy’.

Beware! Not everything done using the name of Christ is Christian! If someone talks about ‘Christ energy’ or ‘Christ consciousness’, ask them what they mean. If they tell you that ‘Christ’ is the force of love who worked through Jesus, Buddha and Mohammad, run a mile! St John knew better. If we have Christian faith, we recognise that Jesus, the baby born at Bethlehem, the man baptised in the Jordan by John, the Saviour of the World slain at Calvary, he and he alone is Christ. It’s God’s Holy Spirit working in our heart that makes us confident about who Jesus is. This is why St John says that faith ‘overcomes the world’.

Some voices in the world say it doesn’t matter whether we follow Jesus. Other voices in the world say that ‘Christ energy’ is in all sorts of places. There are many voices on offer. Which voice will you spin your chair for? I’m only going to spin MY chair round when I hear that loving yet demanding voice which says, ‘I am the way. No one comes to heaven but through me.’

If you are concerned about the issues concerned in this sermon, please consult the New Age section of my website.