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REFLECTIONS

I am no longer a “West Virginian Parson”. I suppose I shall have to change my blog address. Last Thursday I left Morgantown at 4:20 AM EST and arrived here in La Porte at 11:30 AM CST. It was a long drive.

On Sunday I was delighted that we had the largest congregation for a normal service in years. It was a wonderful beginning to a new ministry. I slipped back into Rite One, eastward position as if it were an old shoe. I am not at all convinced that old English is any more inaccessible than “modern” English to those who are not “churched.” The concepts expressed are just as unfamiliar, whatever rite used, even odd to people who have not grown up in the Faith or come to know Jesus within the context of a liturgical church. People slip into the bizarre vocabularly of football or computers almost unconsciously. They equally slip into the church’s vocabulary as long as liturgy lives and is done well.

Anglicans believe in a balance of Word and Sacraments and believe that in both and through both grace is received to built up the community, the Body of Christ, as it witnesses to the watching world. The Word is received first corporately (in church) as it is read and heard, and faithfully preached and taught. The priest as preacher has the extraordinary and frightening task of being faithful to the texts provided; interpreting them within the context of the Christian tradition (experience over the ages) and applying these words to the lives of those who hear and through the hearers to those outside. The words “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” should convince the preacher that he or she is on holy ground and about a holy task.

In the sacraments and particularly Baptism and the Eucharist, He who is the Word made flesh draws the people of God into communion with the Trinity and with all the company of heaven. In these sacraments Christians are challenged in their vocation to be the people of God here and now, and members of the Kingdom which is now and which is to come. Every parish church in every community is a microcosm of that Kingdom and a witness to God’s love and purposes. Through these sacraments we are, to use St. Paul’s oft used expression “in Christ”, we “dwell in him and he in us” as the Prayer Book puts it.

This is not primarily a personal experience, or a bargain forged between us and God to get us to Heaven. One day, please God, we will be in the new Heaven and the new earth, returned to Eden. Until then our vocation, until we fall asleep in Jesus, is to care for the world God made, and “Behold it was good”, and to reach out in compassionate love to everyone, for the needy can be rich people and the blessed, poor people. We must help to feed, heal, house and enable those neglected by politicians and political parties and factions. Yet we must do more than that. For when Jesus healed, fed, raised from the dead, he also changed lives through the Good News. Bringing a person to Christ in the fellowship of the Church is the most vital political action any of us may attempt. If this happens, we don’t do the real work. Christ does the real work in and through us.

None of this is possible if we are obsessed with the “politics” of the church and that part of the church in which we live. The Episcopal Church will not return to its first love through strategies, through schism, through process or through systems. It will return to its first love when its people, gorged on “fast food religion” despair, like an alcoholic who has reached the bottom. Then God will revive the church in the midst of the years through the faithful, positive, caring witness of those he has called to be his own.

I write all this to myself, as a reminder, as I begin this new phase of ministry with the people of God here in this parish. God help us and sustain us.

One Response

  1. Another reminder: Jesus spoke in “the language of the people.” So did Cranmer. I think it’s important for us to speak in the language of the people, not the language of Shakespeare. I do love Rite I, as do many of my parishioners. But to think that language is as accessible as Rite II is just to fool yourself.

    Also: I’m not trying to discourage you, but you do know that EVERYONE shows up for the new priest in town. They all hope you’ll be on their ecclesiastical and liturgical “page.” It will settle down in the blink of an eye, almost.

    Glad you’re in a place you enjoy. I wouldn’t come north for the world.

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