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Responding to Christ

The challenge of Jesus is not ‘Believe in me’, but rather ‘Follow me’.  Becoming a Christian is not about giving our intellectual assent to a good idea, but rather committing the whole of our life into the hands of the God who makes Himself known in the person of Jesus Christ.  It is in this moment of self- surrender that we encounter the reality of Emmanuel, God with us.

I first said ‘yes’ to that call of Jesus to follow Him when I was ten.  On my tenth birthday a visiting missionary told me if I surrendered my life to Jesus that there would be a party in heaven held in my honour.  Not one to miss a party, that night I prayed that God would be with me, and I asked Jesus to help me follow Him for the rest of my life.  And since then my every moment has been spent trying to get to know Jesus more and to make Him known to others.

Not that following Jesus has been easy.  I have seen friends killed for their faith.  I have been beaten up and put in prison for standing up for what is right.  I have suffered illness and hardship, but through it all I have known the overwhelming presence and power of God.  Jesus doesn’t promise us an easy time, but He does promise to be with us whatever we face.  And because Jesus is with us, we find that we can face anything, even the things that scare us most!

In surrendering all to Jesus we enter into a relationship that is all encompassing and genuinely transforming.  In surrendering all to Jesus we set out on a journey that is exhilarating, terrifying, surprising, mysterious, challenging and life-giving.  It is in surrendering all to Jesus that we become ourselves as God has created us to be. 

To surrender everything to God feels like a risk.  It has always felt like that.  It means giving up our plans and ways of doing them and trusting them to God in the sure and certain knowledge that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and that He wants the very best for us.  It feels like a risk because God’s plans for us might not look like we expected them to.  But the only true risk is not responding at all. 


The Jesus who calls us to follow him is saying to us today:

"Hear, O England, the Lord our God is the only Lord,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
With all your soul, with all your mind
And with all your strength
Love your neighbour as yourself".

And the only fitting response for me is this:

Lord take my heart from me,
For I cannot give it to thee
Keep it for thyself,
For I cannot keep it for thee
And save me in spite of myself.

Friends, let us do it and let us do it now! God help and bless us all.


This is an edited extract from the Archbishop's Inauguration Sermon Delivered at York Minster on 30 November 2005