'Knowing everything, God still loves us' – Archbishop’s sermon in Santa Cruz Balanya, Guatemala


The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd Juan David Alvarado Melgar, Primate of IARCA & Bishop of El Salvador and The Rt Revd Daniel Gutiérrez, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania officiate at an Ancestral Eucharist and lunch at Santa Cruz Balanya, Guatemala in the shadow of Volcano del Fuego and active volcano. The visit of The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury to Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama and Costa Rica. 2nd June 2024. Neil Turner

Read the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon at the Church of Santa Cruz Balanya in Guatemala.

Readings: Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 4:5-12

I am so grateful to be here with you today. I have looked forward to this day for a long time and it is a marvellous thing to see this church and its people and this part of Guatemala.

As we were singing that last hymn, Señor, tu me llamas, into my mind came the image of a very similar church with a very similar sort of congregation, a long way away, in Africa, in a place of war, in a place of poverty, in a place of oppression.

And there also this morning, they will be trusting in Jesus. He knows them and He knows you, and He loves you. He knows you - we see this with Samuel. Imagine Samuel’s position. His mother and father have sent him to work at the shrine with Eli. So, from the affection and love of his home, he is gone to live with a very old man who is going blind, and whose two sons were organising the worship, were taking bribes, and were behaving badly. I wonder if on some nights quietly he wept, longing for his home.

Then one night, he hears a voice. “Samuel, Samuel.” He goes twice to Eli, and Eli realises at the third time that this is God. It was a time when there were few signs of God. The people suffered and God did not seem present. I imagine some people here recognise that feeling. And He listens. God knows who we are, you and me. He knows everything about us, and he calls us. We can see in the Psalm that He knows everything about us. He knows us from before we are born until after we die, and knowing everything, He still loves us.

That is why Paul says to the Corinthians, “we have treasure”. The treasure is what God gives you and me, to know that we are loved by God. God knows who we are, and God knows what we are. It is extraordinary what God does. If a friend or someone you know gave you a precious gift, in gold and silver, you would put it in a place of safety, you would guard it. But God puts his treasure in us, who are cracked, made of clay. We fail. But God trusts us with the good news of His love.

Is God taking too many risks? No, because, as we saw in the Gospel, God changes us. He changes us so we learn the gift He gives us is freedom to follow him, not the pain of following rules and carrying burdens. Jesus is walking with his disciples and they break the rules set by those who are comfortable. They take a little corn and they eat it. But the leaders say, “This is the day of rest, you’re breaking the law.” And Jesus says to them, “The law is given to set us free.”

God gave his people a day off every week. A day of rest. A day for loving one another. A day for not rushing around. A day when we can know we are loved in the community and by God. When we receive God’s gifts, too often they are made into burdens, but God knows who we are, that we are his children whom he loves. He knows what we love. He knows we will let him down, but He still loves us. And He knows what we need - we need freedom and hope. What that means here will be different from what it means in England. It will be special for you. But you will know God’s love in the same way as those African Christians today will know God’s love.

A friend of mine was in that African church three weeks ago, and in the evening he could see the flashes of the guns from militias fighting the government forces. I have been there many times and seen the holes from shelling of the walls of the church. People in that church are like you. They trust God, and in trusting God, they find hope. May God send us all peace and hope. Amen.

Read more about the Archbishop's 12-day visit to Central America.

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