Musings Of An Anglican Sojourner

On Community: An Easter Reflection

As we seek ways to discover and meet the needs of Christian orphans for belonging and community, I am reminded of the two times shared by Jesus with His disciples that form a part of Holy Week – events that form “bookends” for our understanding of Easter.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus used the Passover meal to institute the sacrament of Communion:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)

On the evening of Easter Day, Jesus appeared to his disciples gathered in the locked room – perhaps the same upper room in which they had met three evenings before:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-43)

From these two events I believe that we can draw several conclusions

  1. Jesus identifies himself with his disciples. As their Lord, he is a full participant in their fellowship. This isn’t just a matter of his physical presence. It is an ongoing reality. Shortly before his Ascension Jesus told them: “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 2. 20)
  2. Jesus’ participation is expressed in his loving care for his disciples. He provides them with spiritual nourishment and blessing. He calms their fears and offers them reassurance.

Establishing a virtual fellowship in the 21st Century can seem like a very long way from that upper room. Yet is it realty so different? In the presence of the Holy Spirit – Jesus’ own Spirit – we experience fellowship with one another. As we meet together, we also receive his reassurance. He is our Lord and a full participant in our community.

We do not know where this will lead any more than those original disciples could foresee the events that they would follow. The circumstances and the technology are very different, but we are on the same path with the same commitment from him and with the same call to worship and to obey.

We join with those original disciples in affirming: The Lord is Risen. HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Mark Larratt-Smith
Easter 2014

Feeling blessed by these sermons online

We don’t have an orthodox Anglican church close by either our home on the Island or here in Phoenix. So we appreciate hearing the gospel preached online. This week the sermons friends and family have sent me as well as the one we heard at Christ’s Church of the Valley have a common theme. They ask the question, what does it mean for our every day life to know and follow Jesus?

While in Phoenix we attend Christ’s Church of the Valley’s (CCV) Peoria Campus. CCV is so big and has so many locations that the pastor now appears via video recorded the previous evening at the 10:30 service we go to. This link will take you to either just the message or the full service. For an experience of  3000 people worshiping at once,  click on the service link. To go straight to the sermon, click on that link. What I find amazing is that we two recently retired folks are the old ones at this service. The average member appears to be in the 30s with kids. Their focus is on getting men in the church doors. To that end, this Sunday they hosted a car show on church property that featured over two hundred collector vehicles including a very rare Jag D-Type. Pastor Don of CCV is preaching a series on encountering Jesus. How would we react being face-to-face with Jesus? In this week’s sermon he is looking at Simon Peter’s relationship with Jesus. He compares Peter’s denial of Jesus (three times) with Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus. Both expressed remorse over their last encounter with Jesus before his crucifixion. However, while Judas expressed sorrow over his action, Peter also repented for his. Both ended up dying violently, Judas by his own hand and Peter for standing up for his faith. Are we ready to defend Christian values in the marketplace? Will you decide for tolerance over truth? Or will you stand up for Biblical truth and values? After you encounter Jesus, what difference has it made in your life?

The other sermon I watched this week was sent to me by my daughter under the subject ‘Smoking hot sermon’.  It is by Andy Stanley from Atlanta who like Pastor Don in Phoenix is head pastor of a network of many churches. His sermon, available under this link, is about what it looks like to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is about making a difference, not making a point. For someone who loves to debate, this is a challenge I need to ponder. Pastor Andy calls us to ‘clothe’ ourselves in kindness and love. The difference is made in our community when they experience from us a genuine compassion and humility. Pastor Andy exhorts us to ask God to bring to mind opportunities to loan our strength to other people. Jesus did not come here, he says, to make a point. He came here to make a difference. That difference is expressed by loving people the way our Heavenly Father loved us through his son, Jesus Christ.

A new friend and neighbor here in the sunny south sent me a sermon he found on a blog he subscribes to that expresses a point Pastor Andy would agree with. While I don’t have a link to it, I would like to share its salient point. The sermon starts by quoting the Sherma from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which begins “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One”, and then goes on to ponder Jesus’ attitude towards religion.

Jesus thought that the circle of God’s children could not be closed by religious stricture. So he opened it up. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He called women to be his followers and witnesses in a time when women could not testify in legal cases. He embraced children, a clear taboo in the patriarchal society of which he was a part. He called people from all walks of life, even those with questionable trades, to be his followers and to sit at table with him. Everywhere he went he reached out to people expressing to them that God’s embrace is large indeed, very large indeed. The Temple might have limits. God’s embrace holds the universe.

 These three sermons focus on our personal relationship with Jesus and what it means to be His follower. How we encounter Jesus will reflect in our encounters with our family, neighbors and colleagues. Our relationship and interactions with Jesus will guide, direct and inform our relationships and interactions with one another.

Delighting in Prayer: 7 helpful thoughts from Garth Hunt

Image of open book.Garth Hunt has put up a new blog post about Christian prayer:  “Seven Helpful Thoughts For Your Prayer Life”.  This is another excellent post, well worth reading and absorbing!

Here’s an example (Thought #2):

Prayer is a delight and privilege, not just an obligation or duty
When I first became a Christian as a young boy of 8, I was instructed by my Sunday School teachers and other adults that daily Bible reading and saying my prayers was a duty, an obligation that all Christians needed to fulfill. Somehow, God was impressed and satisfied with me if I remembered to fulfill these duties on a daily basis. If I’m honest, it was closely akin to picking up my pajamas and making my bed in the morning: duty, obligation, discipline. It was not at all intended to be fun or pleasurable.

But that is so far from all that our loving Saviour intended! The reality of prayer is that, “You don’t have to; you get to!” The truth is that, notwithstanding our sinful lives and repeated failures at trying to keep the law, we have unrestricted and unlimited access to Almighty God 24/7! We get to spend unlimited time, whenever or wherever we want, with the King of kings and Lord of lords! There’s no right words that you have to use; there’s no purification ceremony that we have to endure. Muddy boots, runny nose and all, we can come into His presence in prayer! What a joy; what a privilege! It boggles the mind!

Do yourself a favour – read the whole post here!

Time To Rejoice!

Photo of footpath running through a clearing in a forest.I read I Chronicles 16:8-11 today, and this particular verse struck me:

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! (I Chron. 16:10)

The thing that struck me was the condition given for rejoicing:  let the hearts of those WHO SEEK THE LORD rejoice!

When we have a special touch from the Lord – when He speaks to us, in whatever way – then rejoicing is the obvious reaction.  But the scriptures here are telling us that we aren’t to wait!

We may be troubled, we may be struggling, we may simply be in a dry place or in “that dark night of the soul”… but the command is clear:  if we are seeking the Lord, then it’s time to rejoice NOW!

This speaks particularly strongly to me because the Lord has had me “in school” for a good seven years now, teaching me (over and over and over again…) to trust Him.  He keeps putting me in situations where I don’t know what to do or how to help myself – not because He’s a big meanie, or He doesn’t care, but because He wants me to trust Him, all the time, in all situations.

I have to admit to a besetting sin:  I’m a grumbler.  (Perhaps more accurately, a whiner!)  When things get tough I keep focusing on the situation (and on my own lack of ability to deal with it) – in my thoughts and in my words.  I try very hard to cling to my faith in God, but I’m like someone riding a tram car up a mountainside – I keep looking down, down, down and worrying “what happens if…?”

Here’s my verse for these times – for all times.  “Glory in His holy name” – stop looking at your circumstances; “…let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!”  As long as I’m seeking Him, I already have reason to rejoice!

Having a tough time of it?  Here’s the word for you:  Glory in God’s holy name; seek the Lord, and let your heart rejoice!

Hide Thou Me

I seem to be on a musical theme this week!

I sometimes get discouraged in my Christian walk – and, yes, sometimes with the ASF as well, as we continue to seek God’s will and s-l-o-w-l-y develop our fellowship and outreach.  Then there’s my personal life (usually beset by a lack of money) and my business life, as I strive to get my virtual assistant business established and (God willing) flourishing.

I know full well that my deepest need is to place all my trust in Jesus; this is a lesson that He has been teaching me (over and over) for some 7 years now.  And I also know, from experience, that those times of testing – the times when I feel particularly discouraged – are the times when the Lord is, in fact, working in a special way in my life.  Those testing times are always, always followed by times when I feel foolish because I found it so hard to cling to my trust in Jesus – because He always comes through, often in unexpected ways!

I was nosing around on YouTube just now, and ran into this song, peformed by the Gaither Vocal Band, and it says all I need to remember in these testing times:

“Sometimes I feel discouraged / and I think my work’s in vain
I’m tempted oft to murmer / to grumble and complain…
Then I cry, “O Rock of Ages / hide Thou me.”

When I face my enemies of discouragement and doubt, then I pray, Lord:

“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!” (Psalm 61:1-4)

Amen!

Fill My Cup, Lord

At the little Church of God church I attend here in Castlegar, one of the hymns we sang today was “Fill My Cup, Lord” (written by Richard Blanchard).

This song really echoes some of the things I feel as an Anglican orphan.  Even though I do have Christian fellowship in a Bible-believing (and love-filled) local church, my heart is still torn by the things that are going on in the Anglican Church of Canada (and also in churches like the United Church), and I really feel my isolation as a Bible-believing, confessing Anglican in an area where I seem to be the only one – although I’m sure there may be others around who feel much as I do.

Here’s a wonderful presentation of the song from the Gaither Vocal Band YouTube channel:

“Like the woman at the well, I was seeking / for things that could not satisfy

And then I heard my Saviour speaking: / Draw from My well that never shall run dry.”

“Fill my cup, Lord / I lift it up, Lord;

Come and quench this thirsting of my soul…

Bread of Heaven, feed me ’till I want no more

Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.”

We are all seeking You in one way or another, Lord.  Fill our cup – let us receive, and recognize, the cup of salvation.

Amen and amen.

Get Posting!

This blog post is aimed particularly at ANiC churches with websites that include blogs, but it applies to online-savvy believing Christians in general, too.

I have subscribed to a number of Christian blogs, with the idea of “hearing” good Christian information and discussion online.  So far I’ve subscribed to six blogs.  Five of them are ANiC blogs, and one is J. Warner Wallace’s “Cold Case Christianity” (an excellent blog, by the way – I highly recommend it, and his book “Cold Case Christianity” as well!).

Of the five ANiC blogs, two put up new posts about once a month, two more add posts occasionally (one last posted in June, the other last posted in April) and one hasn’t had a new post in almost a year.

“Cold Case Christianity” features new posts – good, solid, readable posts – two or three times a week.

So what’s my point?

The point is, blogging is a great way to reach the world with Christian thought – and this very usable (and accessible) tool is being woefully under-used by ANiC Anglicans.  Blog posts let Christians show and share their knowledge and understanding of God.  They also attract new people, since there are millions out there who regularly turn to blogs for information.  And – of particular interest to churches and ministries with websites – blog posts help your website show up better in search engines, because the posts add regular fresh content (which Google and other search engines love).

So what do you put in a blog post?  Here are a few examples:

New ANiC Church In Edmonton” – a straight informational post, very short but makes an announcement of definite interest  to Anglican orphans in the Edmonton, AB area.

Does Belief In God Encourage Criminal Behavior?” – a fairly long discussion post that quotes a case study that is often used by atheists attempting to demonstrate a connection between religious belief and criminal behavior – with actual quotes from the study which show that, in fact, “The criminals interviewed for this research repeatedly displayed an inadequate or theologically incorrect view of Christian teaching”.  This kind of post is tremendously useful for Christians being called upon to give a reason for their faith.

New Song: Be The Fire” – a good example of a resource-type post, this blog post introduces a new Christian song, with sound sample and downloadable lyric sheet.  It also talks about where the inspiration for the song came from.

Christ did something or other, which, somehow or other, had some connexion or other with salvation” – a combination resource and discussion post.  It features a connection to a post of a sermon by F.W. Robertson (1816 – 1853), about the need to make sure that we make the Gospel clear in our preaching.

Perspective” – a report-type post that makes a point.  The report is on a mission visit to Cuba, and thoughts about cultural perspective, especially as applied to North Americans visiting a foreign culture.

An important thing to remember about doing a blog is this:  the more frequently you post, the more interest people will have in following your blog.  If you only post once a month (or less), it’s easy for people to simply not bother checking your blog.  If you have good, new content every couple of weeks (or even every couple of days), people will turn to your blog to see what’s new.

So come on, all you faithful Anglicans out there – get posting!

 

MORE THAN A FAMILY

We all know about the dislocations and problems leading to, and resulting from, the creation of the Anglican Network in Canada  (ANiC) as an alternative for Canadian Anglicans who “believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading” (Jerusalem Declaration).

To date (July 2 2013) there are 74 ANiC parishes across Canada (including 5 in Massachusetts and Vermont, USA).  Many of these are former Anglican Church Of Canada (ACOC) parishes that made the decision to be “fully Anglican, biblically faithful, evangelizing and discipling communities”; an increasing number are new church plants.

Of course, the ACOC still has a  great number of parishes with a great many members.  Many of those members are, no doubt, happy with the theoligical stance of the ACOC.  Many others, however, feel uncertain, uncomfortable with the theological changes, and even feel definite disagreement – yet they remain.

Why?

Each person has their own story, of course.  I think, though, that one reason for the reluctance to change may be found in this:  belonging to an individual church (as opposed to a denomination) is very like being a member of a family.

Each of us who belong to a church are in this situation.  We know the other people in our parish.  Many of them are our friends; many more are at least known to us (depending on the size of the church, of course!).  We have a history together.  The people, the relationships are familiar.  We even have an affection for the physical plant of the church, for the “house” that holds our “family”.

Separating yourself from your family is very difficult.  It’s wrenching.  It feels disloyal.

Jesus knew this.  And Jesus said:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple… So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:26-27, 33-35)

Jesus knew the Law – who better?  He knew the commandment, “Honor your father and mother”.  But He knew also the first and greatest commandment:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

The Lord continued, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  (Matthew 22:39-40).

We are more than just a family; we are the Body of Christ, and Christ is our head.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

And be prepared to renounce all that you have to be His disciple.

Moving Back

Well, my experiment with going to the local ACOC church lasted just three weeks.  Even my husband (who isn’t much of a church-goer, although he remembers the traditional Anglican church of his youth with great fondness) didn’t like them.  So he’s gone back to Sundays-at-home and I’m going back to the local Church of God church, where at least they worship God “in spirit and in truth”!

One thing this sojourn has done: it’s greatly increased my longing to belong to an ANiC Anglican church.  And it’s made me all the more eager to do everything I can, as part of the Anglican Sojourners Fellowship, to reach out to other Anglican “orphans”.

As a member of the Interim Steering Committee of the ASF, I’m united with the other Steering Committee members in diligently seeking ways to reach out through the ASF.  One of our ideas is to start an email newsletter, which people will be able to subscribe to from this site.  This should be a great way for members (and site visitors) to get news about the ASF and ANiC, plus articles of interest, resources and anything else we can think of – all delivered directly to your email inbox.

As always, we want very much to hear from others as to what they, as orphans, want and need – as well as ideas you may have for reaching out to others in the same boat.  Please feel free to leave comments on this blog post, or use the Contact Form at the bottom of any page to contact us.

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!