Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thoughts on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Tomorrow's 1928 BCP Gospel, from the fifth chapter of Matthew, beginning with verse 20, speaks of righteousness, forgiveness, and 'giving over' to your adversary. In the reading, Jesus speaks of a person being angry with a (his) brother without a cause being in danger of the same judgement to be meted out for murder.

There are many sermon topics in the lesson for the day, but I would like to dwell on one of them that is often misunderstood, or even omitted from exposition.

Jesus speaks of reconciling with a wronged (or wronging) brother...before coming to the altar to worship with our gifts, with our alms and oblations, with our selves, our souls and bodies, that reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice that He demands of us.

Those who yet remain in the Episcopal Church can, if they really try, see themselves in the latter verses of this lesson setting...'Agree with thine adversary quickly...lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the magistrate (officer), and thou be cast into prison'. We can apply that teaching to the discussion, debate, and litigiousness that is overtaking the congregations of the Episcopal Church in dioceses after diocese, as bishops and standing committees, chancellors and diocesan and provincial administrators are bringing suit against faithful Anglican congregations who have, in most cases, paid for their properties, paid for all improvements, paid all utility bills, salaries, assessments and askings...all without help from diocesan or general funds (of course that does not apply to DioSD, since over half of the diocesan budget is underwritten by the general church offices and coffers). These suits are to 'reclaim' the properties that the dioceses and the general church contend are 'rightfully theirs' through the so-called Denis Canon and the hierarchical structure of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Of course, when there is a 'new thing' that some parish priest wishes to experiment with, at the cost of the faith and practice of the parish or mission, the general church morphs instantly into a congregational structure, similar to the Baptists, so the reappraising clergy can implement their insidious changes without fear of sanction from the diocese or general convention, or even reprisals from the Anglican Communion at large directed towards TEC for their 'innovative stance' on sin, among other things; but when it comes to property and endowments, the Episcopal Church is locked up tighter than Dick's hatband in an hierarchical mode, one that would put the magisterium of Rome to shame..

In the latest rounds of debates, the TEC leadership have stressed their 'freedom' from the accepted practices and doctrinal stands of the greater Anglican Communion, and gone on and did it their way, blithely ignoring the pleas of the Primates of the Communion to stop their innovative changes to the faith once delivered.

All of that to say this...There are 'hard times' coming for the faithful. The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, and the chancellors and standing committees of several dioceses, of the Episcopal Church are moving at flank speed to wrest away the hard earned and hard fought for properties of faithful local congregations. And they will win! Except the Lord change their hearts and minds; civil courts are beginning to turn from their previous judgements and side with the bishops and standing committees in property disputes.

What Jesus is telling His Church in tomorrow's Gospel, is to leave...leave it all behind and start afresh. Yes, it hurts to leave the 'place' where you have raised your families, buried your dead, baptized and married your children...but it is just a place, and no place is worth losing your soul over. God's children cannot, must not, allow the adversary to steal their joy in the Lord, their victory over sin, so hard fought for in the past...just over a pile of bricks (or in our part of the world, sandstone). God is still God, whether we worship in a cathedral or a shack, in a lovely Gothic building or a rented school auditorium, in a brick Georgian or in a garage. God is still God, and His presence is with His children.

The closing line in the Gospel may be prophetic,
'Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing'.
If that is the case, Child of God, come out from among them with rejoicing, that your names are written down in His book, rather than the annals of the adversary.

O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man's understanding; pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Collect for the Day, 1928 BCP

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