Month: April, 2013

Moving on – to confusion

I recently stopped going to the local Church Of God church I had been attending, and (at my husband’s request) started going back to the local ACoC Anglican church with him.  While I have been sorely missing the liturgy, I expected to have some difficulty with the sermons, and sure enough…

The liturgy itself has been a joy – even the BAS services offer such a richness of prayer and scriptures!

Almighty God, Your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  Give us grace to love one another and walk in the way of His commandments, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever, Amen.” (Collect for the day)

“Gracious God, You show us Your way and give us Your divine life.  May everything we do be directed by the knowledge of Your truth.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the risen Lord.  Amen.”  (Prayer over the gifts).

The reading from the book of Acts (Acts 11:1-18) spoke about the inclusion of gentiles in the new Christian church (” ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane’… If then God gave them the same gift that He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”), the reading from the Gospel of John (John 13:31-35) quoted Jesus giving His disciples a new commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”.

Which was followed by a sermon which said, basically, that it doesn’t matter what you believe, it’s your actions that will change your heart (and as long as we all follow the same form of worship, it doesn’t matter if we believe different things).

Say WHAT?!?

Which was immediately followed by the Apostles’ Creed:  “I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY…”

Talk about confused!

Seriously, I find this worse than confusion.  Here is a minister of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, earnestly trying to teach her congregation that what they believe doesn’t matter.  While that same Gospel tells us:

Mark 1:14-15  “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 16:16  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. ”

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 6:28-29  “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

John 17:20-21  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Who are you going to believe?

 

By the way, if there are any other Anglicans in the Castlegar, BC area who are as fed up with the ACOC as I am, please leave a comment  on this blog – I’d love to get together for coffee!

 

ASF News: Proposed Next Steps For The ASF

The Interim Steering Committee is prayerfully considering the direction the Anglican Sojourner Fellowship should be headed.  The “Proposed Next Steps (April 13 2013)” document has been uploaded to the website.  Members, please read this and give us your feedback!  (You can send an email using the “Contact Us” box at the bottom of any page of the website.)

News: ASF Members’ Meeting Invitations Sent!

ASF members, you should now have in your email inbox an invitation to the ASF Members’ Meeting (subject line “Starbucks On Us!”).  The online meeting is scheduled for April 28 at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (equivalent local times are included in the email).

Please reply to the email to let us know if you’re going to be joining the meeting, or if you have any questions.

thanks!

Jeri Woods, ASF Webmaster and member of the Interim Steering Committee

Take 3: A Recap on the MOU

Or “Things to know about ‘Forms’.”

Our first attempt at submitting a signed MOU (Memorandum of Understanding between the soon-to-be-project and the ANiC diocese, see 16 January Take 2) was not successful.  There was a very simple reason for it – so ‘Read, Mark, Learn, and Inwardly Digest.’

In our attempt to do much by ourselves and not create work for other folk, we found the MOU form on the ANiC website.  When I phoned the ANiC office to confirm just which lines we would be deleting as not applicable at this time, and so initialing, I was aware of a vague dissonance in the conversation.  Since I was anticipating a very straightforward conversation concerning a document about which I had some familiarity, I did not have a copy of the MOU in front of me.  It was not until later I realised the reason for the dissonance:  we were having a conversation about 2 different MOU’s.

A new MOU had been created in the Fall of 2012, and was not placed on the website.  We were using an old one, and the ANiC office were wondering why we were deleting, for one thing, great and important theological statements, to which we were to assent.

The moral of the story is:  When using forms of any kind, especially those to start up a project, do please obtain them directly from the ANiC office.  It is much faster and less work to do things correctly the first time!  As we all know.  And in these days of e-mails and attachments, a response requires less time and cost.

I sometimes get the feeling that all these small details have nothing to do with the great spiritual task we have been set by the Lord.  But that is wrong thinking.  The Fathers of the Church were beset by small details, as were the spiritual thinkers and doers of the Reformation and the twentieth century.  The parable of the talents:  be faithful in small things.  If there are no details and order, chaos can result.

So, we await the return of our “moo.”

News: ASF General Members’ Meeting coming up!

Come one, come all!  There will be an online meeting for all members of the Anglican Sojourners Fellowship on April 28 at 5 p.m. EDT, via GoToMeeting.  Watch for a personal email invitation, coming soon!

THE PRIVILEGE OF REPENTANCE

From the ANiC “1st Friday Call to Prayer” e-newsletter (author: Garth Hunt).  This is SO good, I had to share it:

THE PRIVILEGE OF REPENTANCE

Wasn’t this Easter season glorious?? The church calendar affords us the unique opportunity of being able to focus on each of the days’ events during Holy Week, from the anguish of Gethsemane through the horror and cruelty of the merciless crucifixion, the pivotal act of Jesus’ selfless sacrifice, to the splendor of the resurrection, His ultimate triumph over sin and death. This year, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were particularly moving as I reflected on the dreadful cost of my sin, and the glorious liberty that we all can experience when we bend our knee in repentance and submission to our magnificent Saviour.

But sadly, for decades throughout much of western Christendom, an insidious and potent deception has been at work within the Church. It was at epidemic levels in the denomination from which many of us withdrew; for some, at great cost. Despite numerous references in our liturgies to the concept of “sin”, there has been a systematic attempt, emanating from pulpits and seminary classrooms alike, to expunge it from our theology, and, even from our vocabulary. The very notion of sin, original or otherwise, we are told, is old-fashioned, unenlightened and it makes people squirmy and uncomfortable. After all, we stopped talking about “hellfire and brimstone” in Anglican circles at least 100 years ago and the term “sin” needs to follow hard on its heels.

Two dear friends of my parents would not come to my father’s church because they we sure that they were not “miserable offenders” and therefore could not say the general confession in the Book of Common Prayer. Many churches have dropped the confession from their liturgy because to them it is offensive and schismatic. A few months ago, a local minister was quoting as saying to a newspaper interviewer upon his installation, “Well, I’m certainly not the kind of preacher who will tell people that they are sinners!”

Perhaps they’re right on this one… couldn’t we find a different way of saying the same thing? Talk about our weak spots or our moral frailty? Couldn’t we just put more emphasis on God’s unconditional love and acceptance of everyone? After all, we’ll drive visitors and potential newcomers away if we talk about “sin”… won’t we?

Let me ask you a direct question? If you wanted to weaken the message of the Gospel so that it lost its power to actually transform lives, what would you do? How would you attack? One great strategy would be to totally discredit the doctrine of “sin”. Look at the results when that strategy is embraced:

*   If you remove the reality of sin, then I am not a miserable sinner.

*   If I’m not a sinner, then I don’t need a Saviour to die for me

*   If there’s no need for a Saviour, then Jesus died the cruelest death possible for absolutely no reason.  He’d have been better to live out the rest of his life, teaching, telling neat parables, accepting people.

*   If he died in vain, with no purpose accomplished, then arguably we can’t believe that Jesus rose again, either

*   If there’s no real, physical resurrection for him, then there isn’t for us either, and as Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”                      I Corinthians 15: 17-19

So all we’re left with are some pleasant liturgies, some familiar stories and thoughtful insights into life – but a religion that is totally devoid of the power to change anyone, or the hope of a future spent with God. At the end of the day, all I have that really I can count on is me, and, sad to say, there are many in the Church for whom this is the Gospel! And people wonder why so many are leaving!

So why is the concept of sin vital? Because God has the antidote to its deadly poison, only one antidote, it’s called Repentance. It’s the only Key that He has given us to open the door into His presence. We’re like latchkey kids coming home with the key around our neck, and upon unlocking the door, we discover that Dad is indeed at home!

Let’s briefly look at a passage from John’s first letter to see if he can throw any light on all this:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.         1 John 1:8-10, ESV

If we claim to be without sin, or that “sin” is just an archaic concept that has no place in the 21 century, then “we deceive ourselves”, and, John, who was our eyewitness to all the Holy Week events, says that we call God a liar.

This is serious stuff. Why? Because God considers the confession and repentance of sin a gift from Him, an opportunity, a touch-point to cleanse us and set us free from the ravages of our sin. God calls us to repent, but not to make us feel miserable and disqualified from life with Him – we’re not being sent to the principal’s office, with our tails between our legs, like bad school children. When in times past, the GAFCon primates have asked the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church of the US to repent from the direction they were headed, it wasn’t an ecclesiastical spanking, it was a deep cry from the heart to allow God to do what he does best – forgive sins.

Thomas Cranmer and the architects of the Book of Common Prayer placed the first two verses of I John 2 amongst the “Comfortable” words that prepare us for Communion. You’ll recognize them:-

Hear also what Saint John saith:-

“If anyone sin, we have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous; And He is the propitiation for our sins.” Comfortable words, comforting words, right from our service of Holy Communion.

There is such joy in being able to repent, and it is such an incredible privilege:

*     our conscience is relieved and lightened, no matter what we’ve done

*     the accusation and self-condemnation can be silenced

*     we can be purified from all the results of our sin

*     we can enter the very presence of God, unashamed and without guilt, delighting in fellowship with Him

*     because He did die for a purpose, and did rise from the dead, we have a hope of an eternity to spend with Him, totally unshackled by even the presence of sin

In closing, let me encourage you to reflect carefully on some very well-known verses from Psalm 51, a psalm we may have considered only during Lent. Don’t let familiarity rob you of the impact of the heart-felt repentance that these words express. They are magnificent, and they are poignant. Allow this prayer to minister to you as you linger over it.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence,

and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.

 

Garth V. Hunt

*************************************************************************************************

Visit the ANiC Prayer Ministry page for links to previous 1st Friday Calls to Prayer and other prayer resources.