From the second letter to Timothy ‘Guard the good treasure entrusted to you’.
Words written by St Paul, probably just before his execution; words of command, not just for Timothy but for those whom he would teach. Words to pass down through the generations of believers.
I’d like to think this morning about the good treasure that has been entrusted to us, what it might mean for us to guard that treasure and how we might pass it on to future generations. Some of you will have noticed that we launched a new social media campaign at the beginning of this month. Our hashtag is Treasure our Cathedral and over the coming months we’re going to be sharing posts on a daily basis that reference the life and witness of this place. When we began to think about the social media campaign, our starting place was the rhythm and cycles of prayer that are at the heart of who we are and what we do. Day by day, in words and music and silence, in the majesty and the beauty, this place supports and enables the prayers of its people. We are steeped in the prayers that have been offered here over the ages, we add to and enliven those prayers and leave our own legacy for those who will follow us.
Our building is clearly not just our gathering place, but also our spiritual and, for some, our emotional home. There are physical treasures within this place – art and embroidery; woodwork and glass. All gifted to us by skilled craftspeople – some in years gone by and some created in recent months and years. Those visual arts may help us to focus, may remind us of something of the nature of God.
The first treasure then, is tangible. And within this tangible space come the treasures that bring the building alive. Our liturgy is one of our treasures – beautifully crafted words that help us to engage with the core of our worship, to share in the breaking of bread and the distribution of wine. Our liturgy expresses our theology, feeds our minds and our hearts, points us towards the Divine. In this place, that liturgy is supported and enhanced by our musicians. Carefully chosen music, performed in a way that is neither intrusive or for its own sake, but liturgical music offered as a part of our expression of worship.
These offerings are, of course, dependent on the work and gifts of individuals who lead and support the different elements of our worship. People are one of the treasures of this place. And, of course, people are our treasures not just in this place and in this area of our lives but throughout all of the aspects and areas of life we inhabit. People are our connections and our inspiration. People are our carers and those who care for us. People are those who love us, those whom we love and those whom we find it difficult to love. And we know from our understanding of Scripture that each one is loved by God, each one is treasured by God.
So what does it mean for us to guard our treasures? In some ways, the answer to that question is obvious if we’re thinking about our building and the things that are within it. We have a responsibility to care for this place, to look after the artefacts and crafted work that surround us. To guard it in order to pass it on to future generations and to make sure that it is in good order when we do so. And we now understand that our stewardship extends beyond the simple care of our building and possessions. Stewardship includes our responsibility within this place to care for our wider community and to take into account the environmental impact of all that we do. Last week our children unveiled the new banners that remind us of those responsibilities.
They spoke about our use of sources of energy; the materials we use; the day to day choices we make – and the impact of all of those on people across our globe.
We were also reminded last week of our more local responsibilities to people who may be less fortunate than us. Our foodbank collection was a practical way for us to care for others; it was also a symbolic way for us to treasure the more vulnerable people within our communities, to remind ourselves that we have a responsibility to care for God’s people alongside our responsibility to care for God’s created world – it’s not an either/or.
Within every place of worship we have a responsibility to treasure and honour, to hold the balance between ‘in here and out there’, recognising that everything we do is grounded in our collective life of prayer. We offer the best worship we can – in our words and our music, in the ways that we conduct our services and in what we seek to share about God within the content of those services. In praying together, we journey together.
We guard all that we treasure week on week as we gather as the body of Christ in this place, and others, because the ultimate treasure isn’t the building or the liturgy or the music or even the people – the real treasure is the grace that we receive when we encounter and engage with the risen Christ in our midst. The real treasure is the love of God which is revealed to us in the tangible and intangible treasures that are right here in this place.
One of our responsibilities is to ensure that the gift we find in this place is kept healthy and alive in order that it can be shared with future generations. It’s been a real pleasure to welcome the Friends of Cathedral Music over this weekend and we hope that you will take something of what we treasure back with you to your home churches. It is incumbent on each one of us to honour our traditions and to do whatever we can, to give in whatever way we can, in order to ensure that the treasure is not just preserved but enhanced and enriched for the benefit of those who will follow us.
Let’s return to our hashtag – Treasure our Cathedral. Whether or not we are people who engage with social media, we can share the message of that campaign. The treasure that is this Cathedral, its building and artefacts, its liturgy and music, its people and their commitment – that treasure is too good to keep hidden.
We all carry the responsibility to share the Good News that we find here, to invite others to experience the treasures that are on offer. In so doing, we will play our own part in ensuring that this place and all that makes it what it is, will be available for many generations to come.