A sermon preached at the Festal Evensong of St. George at St. Paul’s Cathedral
on April 28th 2013
Readings for Easter 5 / Year 1 / Daily Office
Psalm 8, Wisdom 7:22-8:1, Matt. 7:7-14
Today we remember the story of St. George. The battle with the dragon, saving the princess and living happily ever after. Stories throughout history have been used as a teaching tool, we know that Christ used the parable stories to teac
h complex principles and there is nothing wrong with this traditional story of St. George. In it we are introduced to good and evil as well as the need to protect the defenseless and innocent. I remember sitting on my classroom floor the age of six, drinking my daily milk, listening to my teacher, Miss Woolly, read this story. I may not quite have grasped the need to protect the defenseless but I did understand good from bad, right from wrong. The story planted the seed and as a child it made me ask questions, and by asking I began to learn.
Let’s take a look at another version of the story. This story is widely accepted as the realistic account of St. George. Take yourself back to the third century and we find George being born somewhere in the Mediterranean region. His mother was from Palestine and he spoke Greek. He was also a Christian. He followed his father into the Roman army and became a respected soldier. His life came to an end when he became a martyr when he was beheaded for refusing to persecute Christians from foreign lands.
This story is more complex and if we are to get the full effect of it we need to seek out what the story can teach us, especially about our life today. I’d like to suggest to you that this version of the story shows us that Saint George is an early day role model for diversity and inclusion. Why? He was a Greek speaking Christian Turk, living in Palestine, fighting in the Roman army who defended a bunch of foreigners. Put that way and I’m quite sure he knew a thing or two about diversity and inclusion. By seeking the story becomes alive and relevant to our life today.
I want to tell you a third story about George. In this story George attends a school that was very much like my own school, an inner-city comprehensive in a multi-racial city with a very diverse population. One day in the playground George and his mates came across Dillip, a little 12 year old who’s Sikh parents moved to England from the Punjab in India. George’s friends started to call Dillip names. ‘Hey Turban Boy what’s that on your head?” George knew this was wrong and didn’t join in. Soon George’s mates also started to push Dillip around. George knew that he could no longer just ignore what was going on, he knew that he needed to do something. He verbally tried to stop the pushing and shoving but ended up being knocked to the ground by a punch from one of his mates that was meant for Dillip.
Once again we see our base story being built up but the story also builds upon our need to be active in living out our faith. It is easy to seek out injustice, intolerance and hatred but when we find it we must knock at those elements and call them out.
Our reading, from St. Matthew’s Gospel, is taken from the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus is assuring us that if we follow His teaching then His Father, our Father, will provide when we ask, guide when we seek and open the door when we knock. But what does it mean to ask, to seek, to knock? I think that St. George can help us in our understanding.
As children of God we must constantly ask what is going on around us, just as George of the Dragon rode up to the kingdom and asked “What is going on here? Why are people afraid?” Christ also commands us to ask questions, tough questions and sometimes questions that we may not want the answer to.
As children of God we must seek out injustice, seek out the helpless, seek out the innocent and even those who are different to us, the people that we don’t want to find are also the people who we should seek. George, in our third century story sought out those Christians from foreign lands who were being killed because of their faith. Christ calls us not only to ask but also to actively seek.
As children of God we must knock at the door of the oppressor, the intolerant, the bully. George in our modern day story, knocked at the bullying that he saw. By knocking he called his friends out. He held them to account. Christ calls us to knock. When we seek and find injustice, or some other wrong, Christ tells us to call out the injustice, He tells us that we can’t turn a blind eye, we can’t ignore it.
But that is not the end of the story. If our three George’s have taught us anything, it is that we must do something. You don’t have to necessarily give up your life, take a punch defending someone or even kill a dragon. But if we are truly to honor St. George we must work to achieve a better world, to protect the innocent, to love everyone.
Ask, seek, knock, do.