Sermon by Rev. Canon Dr. George Sumner
Orientation Week Service,
5 Sept. 2007
When you all study ecclesiology, that is, the doctrine of the Church, in systematics, or if later you take Professor Mangina’s course on the same topic, my theological advice to you is this: check the air ducts for aliens! I have in mind the movie “Alien” with Sigourney Weaver battling those creepy, snake-like creatures all over that godforsaken planet until finally they fought their way to back to the spaceship and were ready to take off to safety and an alien-free, pure life. We all have that urge in us, don’t we, to go out from among the corruptors, to find a space that is undefiled, an ark. But once they have taken off, it turns out that the aliens are already hidden within. That’s what those critters are good at: hiding. In fact once they attack you, they hide inside you and you think all is well and then their angry little heads burst out of your stomach…
Oh yes, I forgot, a most cheery welcome to life at Wycliffe College! I once heard it said that there are two kinds of people, people who think there are two kinds of people and those who don’t. Into the latter category would fall the professor who told the aforementioned Professor Mangina last year that there are both/and thinkers and either/or thinkers, but that he was both! You, brothers and sisters, have come here to study theology, and that means acknowledging that there are two forces, two sides, two teams, in the world, and learning to tell the difference with your mind and your heart. St. Augustine, the great theologian of the 5th century, whom you will bump into in Foundations class, wrote his magnum opus, a sprawling history of everything called “The City of God,” and in it he says that there are two sides, two cities: The earthly city and the city of God, and they are driven by two loves, the love of self and power, and the love of God. In Biblical terms, there are Babylon and Jerusalem, the arrogant Gentile oppressor and the people of God. In, through, and under everything that happens in your congregation, in your society, there is warfare between the two, so don’t pretend that love of world out there as you find it in the culture is really the same as love for that other city.