Austin Farrer on religion

Austin Farrer on religion

Religion is not self-improvement, or decent conduct or emotional worship. Religion is fidelity. ‘Promise unto the Lord your God and keep it,’ says the psalm. But the fidelity which is the soul of religion is not our fidelity, it is God’s. We give ourselves to him in no reliance on our trustworthiness. Experience has taught us what we are. Our confidence is that God’s faithfulness will prevail over our faithlessness, that he will recall us, that he will not let us go. Our broken resolutions witness against us, but he renews to us daily the miracle of his forgiveness, because he is faithful to his friends. ‘What,’ says St Paul, ‘if some have proved faithless? Shall their faithlessness frustrate the faithfulness of God? It shall not be.’ And he thus expresses the unchangeableness of God’s mind towards us. ‘If, being enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be brought through safely by his life.’

from The Essential Sermons, (SPCK, 1991), 170.

Austin Farrer on discipleship

Austin Farrer on discipleship

We must abandon ourselves to the will of Christ if we are to be his disciples. The secret of it is, always to do cheerfully what the manifest will of God calls us to do. Let no one ask, Where is the will of God? Pray with your heart, and ask him the question. You will quickly be reminded of what he wants you to do. Your mother likes to have your letters: do you write? There is a not very successful person who wants a share of your company: do you brush him off? If you are to do good work, you must sleep: why don’t you keep proper hours? How do you employ your imagination when you are alone? Couldn’t you employ it better? I am talking of everyone’s omissions, everyone’s careless ways, merely to remind you that there is always a road along which you can put your good foot foremost in the doing of God’s manifest will. The trouble about us may not so much be that  we are ill-natured or vicious, but that we are just bad disciples. We do not do the things we are called to do, or we do them late, and with reluctance.

from The Brink of Mystery, (SPCK, 1976), 90.

Austin Farrer on charity

Austin Farrer on charity

Now here’s the only thing I want to say to you in this sermon — that nothing will so much commend the gospel of God as charitable kindness: and that Christians ought to be found thrusting in wherever there’s kindness to be done, not bothering whether their fellow-workers or even those who organize their efforts are Christians or not.

from The Brink of Mystery, (SPCK, 1976), 56.

Austin Farrer on a picture of the Eucharist

Austin Farrer on a picture of the Eucharist

A learned colleague who shall be nameless was giving me a description of the way in which some Eastern Christians worship God. ‘The best way to describe it,’ he said, ‘is to call it a sort of spiritual air-raid drill. The divine presence is the point of explosive danger: and the moment of sacramental consecration is the moment of detonation. The ordinary citizens are protected by a solid stone screen, or rather wall, fencing them off from the altar, and they keep their heads well down to be on the safe side. Then there are the special anti-bomb personnel, the ministers equipped with special protective uniform, and specially trained, who enter the terrible enclosure with fear and wariness and go to the very point of danger. When the incident has been successfully neutralized, the deacon comes out and gives the all-clear to the congregation who get up and move about.’ My friend’s description, I need hardly say, is a piece of satire, but satire is sometimes more effective than justice at seizing the point one wishes to make.

from The Brink of Mystery, (SPCK, 1976), 14.

Austin Farrer on boredom in church

Austin Farrer on boredom in church

Well, but if I go to church, I’ll be bored, and I shall scarcely pray. True enough, you’ll be bored; and I dare say your spiritual resources are very limited. You’ll be bored: but God will be publicly honored or — put it negatively — at least he won’t be publicly insulted: and you, for his honor, will have endured to be bored. And what will be the effect of your being bored? Don’t you see that the effect of it is to throw you back on God? Why are you bored? Where are your spiritual resources? This is to make you know — I must be born again: or rather, since you have been born again, in the fount of baptism — I must dig away the stony rubbish, and let out afresh the fountain of living waters, which God has opened there, that it might spring up to eternal life.

from The Essential Sermons, (SPCK, 1991), 162.

Austin Farrer on redemption

Austin Farrer on redemption

What, then, did God do for his people’s redemption? He came among them, bringing his kingdom, and he let events take their human course. He set the divine life in human neighborhood. Men discovered it in struggling with it and were captured by it in crucifying it. What could be simpler? And what more divine?

From “Sin and Redemption” in Saving Belief

Austin Farrer on committing to God

We never come to God without committing ourselves to him entirely, so far as in us lies, and in the present moment. It seems sometimes to be preached, however, that by a decision once for all made, we can commit ourselves irrevocably. But if this is preached, then it is not true. Today’s decisions cannot tie tomorrow’s hands. What I give to God today, such is my frailty, I may take back or withhold tomorrow. It is through this that God disciplines me, through this that he breaks my pride. The heart is sick and desperately perverse, even the redeemed heart: what it gave God yesterday it takes back today. Our wickedness is so great that we fail to do promised actions, which we had perfectly envisaged at the time of promising. But even if we had the virtue to keep our promise with God when the circumstances are foreseen and unaltered, we should still lack the power to commit ourselves on issues which cannot be perfectly felt or foreseen in advance. He who promises to be chaste, does well and may be perfectly sincere; but he has not by that promise dealt with the temptation he will face when he falls in mutual love with an actual woman, and cannot marry her. Our fences cannot be jumped beforehand, nor our battles won before the enemy appears. You promise fidelity to Christ today, and you are sincere; but it will spare you none of the agony of decision, if a day comes when political brigands hold to our heads the pistol of absolute power, and say, ‘Your religion or your life.’

No, we cannot commit ourselves in a day, because we cannot, merely by saying we will, put our whole trust in God. To trust in God is a thing which has to be learnt. We may stand up and make our profession of faith, clasp a missioner’s hand and say, ‘I have taken Christ for my Savior, I trust him for all.’ But we shall still trust ourselves to do our part in the new covenant we have entered. For we do not learn what dependence on God is, except through having our self-dependence broken in the mill of life, slowly and painfully. Many tears, much shame, continual repentance, this is the lot of those who pledge themselves to God. A paradoxical pledge; we learn to keep it by breaking it. True confessions, bravely and sincerely made to our confessor and absolved with the word of Christ, these are the means by which we learn distrust of ourselves, and trust in God alone. On every such occasion we affirm our self-commital. We bring to life every promise we previously made, back to our confirmation, back to our baptism when others’ lips promised for us, back behind that to the cross, on which Christ committed us to God by dying for us.

from The Essential Sermons, (SPCK, 1991), 183.