From the Rector - The Reverend Geoffrey Smith
1 August 2018
It’s said that on one of the occasions when Charles II visited Winchester, among his entourage was his mistress, Nell Gwynne. Charles and his courtiers were lodged all over the city but particularly in the houses of the Cathedral clergy. It was decided Nell Gwynne should be given lodgings with Thomas Ken, one of the Cathedral canons. Ken however, vehemently refused to offer hospitality to her and so be seen as giving approval to the King’s adulterous liaison.
Strangely enough, when the next bishopric, Bath & Wells, became vacant, the King insisted that Thomas Ken, “that good little man who refused lodging to poor Nellie”, was the right man for the job. Charles then clearly appreciated Ken as a man of principle even if those principles didn’t sit comfortably with the King.
This reminds me of the situation that existed between John the Baptist (whose patronal festival at Ripe we celebrated last month) and King Herod Antipas. John had criticized the King publicly in his preaching for divorcing his wife and marrying his brother’s wife. Herod however was known to like listening to John the Baptist’s preaching although not understanding him and clearly respected him as a man of principle. Unlike Thomas Ken, John’s fate was much more unfortunate. The King was a man of weak character and against his better judgement allowed himself to be manoeuvred by his family into having John arrested and executed.
Herod and Charles II are not uncommon in being able to recognize goodness even when they have no intention of following it. Human nature appears to contradict the notion that knowing the good will inevitably lead to people doing the good.
It’s not a mistake made by God who knows us better than we know ourselves. He doesn’t require us to earn our salvation but gives it to us as a free gift, gained through our trust in Jesus Christ. Set free from the impossible task of making ourselves good, we can begin to believe that we are loved by God just as we are, warts and all. We might then start to turn towards goodness gratefully, although continuing to fail, as God will continue to offer us forgiveness as we begin to discover what it is to live in the Holy Spirit, as sisters and brothers of Jesus, children of God our ever loving Father. Our focus will then shift to God and each other, and not on ourselves, and we will be set free.
From the registers:
June 16th at Ripe Church – Joanne Stevens and Gary Wall
July 14th at Ripe Church - Olivia Bishop and Richard Patterson