Thursday 8 December 2011

St Ambrose, patron saint of occupiers....

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at Bradford Cathedral, down at their Wednesday morning Eucharist. I only had a little time to prepare, so I did what I always do in these situations and I checked out if it was a saints day. December 7th is a day to commemorate St Ambrose of Milan, a fourth century bishop, and I was concerned that it might be a bit dull for a sermon.

I was wrong! Turns out Ambrose was a pretty cool fella. And one of the things he did was use the tactics of the Occupy movement! A group of Arian Christians supported by the Emperor were given use of a building to work from. Ambrose led a group into occupation of the building from Palm Sunday to Easter Day - and though out they made up hymns about what was going on in the world (previously hymns were purely scriptural) so starting the ball rolling for contemporary and contextual hymnody!

But what really made Ambrose a great person, was the way he stood up to those with power. When Emperor Theodosius killed 6000 citizens in Thessalonika in 390AD - Ambrose challenged him, declaring that violence was never the way of faith. He denied that the emperor could even participate in the Eucharist, a powerful act considering that Theodosius considered himself the head of the church. Ambrose continued to try to bring peacemaking efforts to places of civil conflict.

So, lets have some more modern saints, who are prepared to occupy against modern heretics, the heretics who worship material things instead of the things of life and spirit! We need new saints who are prepared to stand up to all violent oppressors, especially when they dare to say that their violence is done in the name of God!

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