Now different people might include different things on a list like that. There was one item, though, that I think you might see on any such list no matter who made it, and that was the very first description of what a well-formed disciple looks like: we are talking about someone who has a secure awareness of a relationship with God in Christ, in the company of the Church. A secure awareness of a relationship with God in Christ, in the company of the Church. In expanding on this state of being off the cuff, the Bishop used the word “Bedrock.” Our knowing God in Christ – not knowing things about God, but knowing God – is so basic a part of who we are that it is the bedrock in our lives. There is nothing deeper or more essential about us than that. For someone who is formed as a disciple, your relationship with God is your bedrock.
Today is informally called Good Shepherd Sunday, and while that can set us to imagining pretty pastures and sweet little lambs, I think if we look a bit closer at the image we’ll see that it, too, is really about bedrock. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John today: “I know my sheep, and they follow me, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” You see how it’s that same image of knowledge, here even mutual knowledge, to know and be known by God. And when that mutual knowledge is in place, we get spiritual bedrock – God as our deepest source of identity and purpose and meaning that cannot be snatched away, no matter what else changes.
One of the best examples of this truth I’ve ever seen happened just after Easter, when something unprecedented occurred in the Anglican world. If you follow church news or British news, you will have seen coverage of it. What happened was that at age 60, the leader of the Anglican Communion, our Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, discovered that the man he had known as his father, Gavin Welby, was not his father at all. This also meant that he discovered that he was conceived out of wedlock in pretty unsavory circumstances, and that because of that irregular parentage he might have been ineligible to be a bishop in the first place, much less made Archbishop of Canterbury. (Just to avoid a cliffhanger, it has turned out that the English law about that was quietly changed in the 50s.)
Surely one of the more destabilizing losses that could happen in a human life, to have your entire image of where you came from ripped away, and via ugly revelations about your mother, and to undergo this in the public eye as a spiritual leader. Well, I want to read at some length to you from the statement Archbishop Justin issued, because I think it is one of the most extraordinary documents I’ve ever seen from someone in a position like his undergoing a loss like this. After setting out the bare facts, he explains their context and meaning as follows: