Church of England · Felixstowe · Lent · Sermon

Lux, Vita, Caritas – A Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Lux, Vita, Caritas

(Jesus and Judgement)

Sermon for The Daily Office

Sunday 26 March 2023 – Fifth Sunday of Lent

(if you would like to watch a video of this sermon please click this link)
Text: The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ 34 They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.  (extract from John 9v1-41 NRSVUE)

God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.

Sprawled across the brow of a hill in Northern Johannesburg stand the buildings of St John’s College.  One of the premier Schools in Southern Africa it was founded by Anglican monks from the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, Yorkshire.  This group of men had made it their aim to spread the Gospel by building schools and seminaries and there are similar foundations scattered liberally across the nations of Southern Africa.

For St John’s College they chose as the motto for the School the three Latin words ‘Lux, Vita, Caritas’, (Light, Life, Love).  These are the three great themes of St John’s Gospel and reflect the seven great ‘I Am sayings’ that Jesus proclaims in its pages.  Most of them are associated with a healing, (in John’s Gospel called ‘signs’) or an encounter with a person which points to truths deeper than the surface ‘miracle’ of turning water into wine, feeding a multitude, or – as with today’s reading – the restoration of sight.

The truth of the Gospel is not displayed in just mighty works of power and healing.

The truth of the Gospel, though they point to it, is perhaps not even displayed in the ‘I Am sayings.’

The truth of the Gospel is displayed in the way (yet another ‘I Am’) in which Jesus shows the Truth.  

There is a deeper Truth…

Over the last few Sundays the Revised Common Lectionary has seen Jesus in personal encounters with three very different people from three very different backgrounds in ways which are, in distinction to the religious authorities who condemned him, welcoming and overflowing with a deep and generous love.

When Jesus meets Nicodemus, who for fear comes to talk with him by night, he holds out to the frightened pharisee the possibility of a world embracing eternal life given without judgment or condemnation.  

When Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, who for fear of condemnation by her own people as well as this precocious Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth, collects water in the heat of the day, he offers her a love that is deeper and fuller than any of the many relationships she has had before.  And he does this despite the questioning and judgment of his disciples.

And when Jesus meets the Man born Blind, barred from worship because of his condition yet, perversely, when able to see driven out of the synagogue, he is bathed in the Light of the World which refuses to judge but only redeems and restores.

How is the truth of the Gospel displayed?  

The truth of the Gospel is displayed by welcome without judgement, care without condemnation, and acceptance without prejudice.

‘Lux, Vita, Caritas’. The Light, Life and Love of God is made manifest through deeds and words that rejects judgement by faith, community, and family and proclaims that all are welcome!

We should take heed of the words from the Easter Day sermon of Père Henri in the movie ‘Chocolat’;

I want to talk about Christ’s humanity, 

I mean how he lived his life on earth: 

his kindness, his tolerance. 

We must measure our goodness, 

not by what we don’t do, 

what we deny ourselves, 

what we resist, 

or who we exclude. 

Instead, we should measure ourselves 

by what we embrace, 

what we create, 

and who we include.

Years ago I learnt this lesson.  It was a cold night in Hillbrow, the Red-Light District of Joburg, (and not far from St John’s College).  I drove past two scantily clad sex workers shivering on a street corner hitchhiking.  Judging them I told myself, ‘serves them right to have to walk’.

God had words with me….

Knowing I was returning along that road later I, condescendingly, promised God that if they were still there when I returned I would help them.  (Never, ever give God a challenge such as that). 

Two hours later they were still there!  I reluctantly stopped and opened the door of the vicarmobile.  They got in, saw my Bible, and told me that they were Christians – my self-righteous cynical response was a silent ‘Yeah, right’.  And then they told me that that their favourite Scripture verse was John 3v17.

‘For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge,  but to be its saviour.’

I continually thank God for those two precious sisters who taught me to not exclude but instead to embrace and welcome all.  That is what the Good Shepherd did for Nicodemus, for the Woman at the Well, for the Man Born Blind, for the whole world, for you and even for me.

Judging people is the easy option.

Judging people lets us wriggle out of the command to care for our neighbour.

Judging people overflows with the hubris which says that I am more precious to God than anyone else.

Judging people, we end up condemning ourselves.

It remains true that ‘If you judge people you have no time to love them.’

And when we do that the whole world becomes emptied of the Light, Life and Love proclaimed in John’s Gospel.

But what if I am the one being judged?

What if I am, like Nicodemus, the one being suspected by the leaders of my faith of not being ‘orthodox’.

What if I am, like the Woman at the Well, the one rejected by the community in which I live?

What if I am, like the Man Born Blind, the one who is even abandoned by my parents?

‘It’s all very well’, we may say in our darkest loneliest moments, ‘talking about loving your enemy and turning the other cheek, but so few people ever seem to love us back’,

I could answer with some fairly anodyne responses and remind us that this will not always be so.  It’s all very well to talk about ‘Pie-in-the-Sky when you die’ and the joy that will be ours when the Day of Resurrection dawns.  But that seems a very long way away and the pain of rejection, prejudice, and judgement many of us face is in the here and now.

It’s a little like living in the middle of the Letter of James isn’t it?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works?  Surely that faith cannot save, can it? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2v14-17)

We, too often finding ourselves on the receiving end of rejection, prejudice and judgement by those who are our siblings in the Faith; cry out for someone, anyone, to show their faith by their deeds.  Saying, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ just doesn’t cut the mustard does it?

There is a way out of this vicious spiral of rejection, prejudice and judgment, but it may hurt a little…

When we are rejected, when we are shunned, when we are judged we are called to ‘bootstrap’ our way into the hearts of those who would rather we weren’t around.

The Letter to the Romans has this to say about how we should behave towards them;

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 Instead, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink, for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12v14-21)

This may seem like a counsel of perfection but as we pick through the words each of us may find there are things which all of us can attempt..

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 

Do not repay anyone evil for evil,

overcome evil with good.

Little by little, act of kindness by act of kindness, teardrop by teardrop, we, often seen as the powerless, have the possibility and the power to transform rejection, prejudice and judgment into ‘Something Beautiful for God’ and so in company with the One who shows us the way of Light, Life, and Love ‘Lux, Vita, Caritas’, bring healing to a broken and sin-sick world.

Note: This sermon was used in the online service of The Daily Office on Sunday 26 March 2023.  The whole service may be found by following this link

This blog ‘Lux, Vita, Caritas; Jesus and Judgement’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023.  It may be reproduced free of charge on condition that the source is acknowledged.


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