Address to worshippers in the compound of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Khartoum
Sunday 26th February 2006The Archbishop visited southern Sudan to offer support to Christian communities and to those projects relieving the suffering of the Sudanese, especially those displaced by conflict in the north.
First of all, I give thanks to God that he has brought me here to share this occasion with you. The people of the Churches in Sudan are in our prayers in England each day. And now to be able to come and to see your faith and your witness is a great gift. Let me say that I have not come simply to speak good news; I have come to hear that good news that you have to speak to me. Because for many years our Christian brothers and sisters in Sudan have spoken good news to the whole of Christian Word. Their courage, their witness their endurance has been a gift to us all. We see all the time how the church here makes its contribution to peace, to lasting peace.
So I come to listen, to listen to the Good News but also to listen to the needs of the people of this country. It is important that when I return I am able to say something about the needs of this country; about the needs and priorities of this country that are needed now for a peace that will last. I know that I shall want to hear now about how you will come to have a full share in the good things of this country, and I shall need also to learn what must be done to make sure that when displaced people are able to return to their homes, there will be real homes for them to live in. There will be roads there will be food there will be water. We know how urgent these needs are and that is what we shall pray for and work for you and with you.
But I want to reflect with you a little about the words that we have - 'how beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News.' They're words that are quoted by St Paul but they come first from the prophecy of Isaiah, the 52nd chapter. And in the prophecy of Isaiah we read that the Good News is news of peace and of victory . But it is not the victory of one group, one tribe, one nation or one person, it is the victory of God.
The Good News, we're told, is that the messenger comes and says 'God is King'. And we have news of peace to share because we know that God is King. Now, what does this mean? First of all, if God is King, it makes some things impossible for us and it makes some things possible for us. First of all, if God is King, it means that no-one else is king. No-one is higher than God, no-one is more free than God. And when we have a living trust that God is King then we, too, are free,
Now think of all the contexts, all the ways in our world in which conflict and violence arise. Between individual persons, between tribes and groups, between nations, even between religious traditions, even between faiths. So many of these conflicts are about who is to be king - who is to be in charge. In a conflict between, say, myself and another person, the secret question is 'who is to be king? Who is to have power?' Each one of us, each group of us wants that power over others. But the messenger comes to say 'God is King'. It's no use arguing whether I am to be king or you are to be king - God is to be King. And if God alone is to be King then we can be at peace. When we are told that God is King, then we hear good news of peace and then it is impossible to argue 'Should I be king, should you be king?' together, together as persons, as groups, a tribes as churches, we know that God alone is King and that we can therefore be at peace with one another. So that is what the proclamation that God is King makes impossible for us.
Now what does the Kingship of God make possible for us? We must ask 'What does God's Kingship look like on earth when it appears amongst us?' Kingship of God appears in Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ himself tells us that he has not come to be served but to serve. A Kingship of God is a power that brings other people alive. We were dead in our sins but God in Jesus Christ brings us to life. And so the Kingship of God appears in the suffering, the service, and the love of Jesus Christ. And nothing in the universe is more true or more powerful than this service which God gives to those he has made.
And if we are to proclaim that God is King to the world; if we are to give this Good News to the world, we must show what God's Kingship is like. We must live so as to bring others to life. We must live so that others know the generosity of God. We must live so that others know the forgiveness of God, so that others know the generosity of God. We must live so that others are touched by love. And God, by his Grace and Spirit makes it possible for us to live so that those around us might live also. That is what the Kingship of God makes possible for us.
Now it is impossible for us to argue about who is king and now it is possible for us to live so that others will live. And that, dearest brothers and sisters; that is what it exists for. The Christian Church exists so that it can say to the world 'Do not argue about who is to be king.' And the Christian Church exists so that we can say to the world around us 'It is possible to live so that your neighbour will live also.' Is that not the Good News? And if we can live that Good News, then people will say of each one of us 'How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim the good news of peace'.
As we learn, day by day, to be the disciples of Jesus Christ, we learn how to become people of whom it is said 'they are beautiful because they are messengers of peace'. And so the calling of God's Christian people here is to say, in this place at this time, "we can live so that the other can live also".
And so we ask God to help us become his beautiful messengers. We ask God to let us know what it means that he is King. In the New Testament and in the ancient Church we often read that baptism itself makes us kings and queens. St Peter tells us that we are a royal priesthood. And so we carry about in our bodies the life, the glory, the Kingship of God in Jesus Christ. May that gift, given to us in baptism, be stirred up to life in us again and again, morning by morning. And then- then it will be true; because those who guard the city will shout together with joy and will see with their own eyes the return of the Lord to Zion.
God Grant that gift to each one of us so that this nation and this world will rejoice in the Kingship of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
May God bless you in this calling.
© Rowan Williams 2006