November 3, 2005

Richard Hooker

Category: Communion of Saints — Micah @ 12:00 am

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Good day, and welcome to “Communion of Saints” from I’m your host, Micah Jackson. Today is November 3rd, 2005: The Feast of Blessed Richard Hooker.

Imagine that you lived in a time of great controversy in the church, when many faithful people argued fiercely about the right way to worship God, and to keep God’s laws. But then, you probably don’t have to imagine it. Our time is very much a time like this, and so was the time of the man we remember today, Blessed Richard Hooker.

Hooker lived at the end of the 16th century, and was saddened by the disputes between the Puritans, who felt that “fancy” worship could take attention away from God, and those with more catholic attitudes about ceremony, who felt that these traditions were an aid to their prayer. The only possible solution, in Hooker’s mind, was to find a middle way, a kind of compromise in which the best of each tradition was honored, rather than one in which all sides lost so much that no one recognized themselves anymore.

His most famous book was The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, which contained a ringing defense of the Book of Common Prayer. He felt that finding a way to worship together would go a long way toward smoothing out any other differences. The experience of being equal before God at prayer would tend to carry over to encounters Christians might have outside of the congregation.

This sentiment is the same one expressed in the Gospel text selected for today. In this passage from John (17:18-23), Jesus prays, “I ask…that they may all be one. As you, Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.” Our common Christianity ought to be far more important to us than the theological or ceremonial differences that divide us. After all, the Church is a Society, not merely an Assembly, Hooker teaches. An assembly gathers “for performance of public actions; which actions being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no long in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards as before.”

Just as Jesus prayed and taught that the church should be one, so Richard Hooker prayed and taught that the Church should be one. On his Feast Day, what better way to honor Richard Hooker’s memory than resolving to look beyond our ecclesiastical differences and remember that all Christians are brothers and sisters, so long as we continue to pray Our Father.

Let us pray: O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thank you for listening to Communion of Saints. Please join us on November 6th at for the feast of Blessed William Temple. I’m Micah Jackson. May God be with you.

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