Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Second Sunday Before Lent

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the following Epistle is assigned today:

The Apostle Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 11
19For you gladly put up with fools, being wise yourselves! 20For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face. 21To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

It is hard to refrain from anger over people who let an anti-Christian, corrupt denomination like The Episcopal Church prey upon them - and thereby sentence others to suffer spiritual confusion and harm. Among the angriest letters received by our American Anglican Council/South Dakota chapter are those with words like, "I don't want to hear about any of this" or "I want to die Episcopalian." Can't force 'em to look at the facts (like Paul, "we were too weak for that!"), but we must pray for those who are prey.

But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.

OK, most of us aren't going to suffer as much as Paul. But we certainly know what it is to be rendered second class in our own church. We are shunned. Requests for letters of transfer are ignored. Emails and letters go unanswered. We are not included on important committees, even if we have valuable skill and experience. Just as Paul was maligned by his fellow Jews, traditional Episcopalians/Anglicans are portrayed as "fundamentalists" or some kind of outsiders - no matter how many decades we've been Episcopalians. (BTW, no matter how much one wants to imitate Paul, it is very hard to be shipwrecked in South Dakota.)

28And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?

For clergy and lay leaders who really care about souls, the sorry state of The Episcopal Church is an open, burning wound. It hurts to see well intentioned people, loved by God, being led into spiritual harm.

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he for ever!) knows that I do not lie.

The grace that comes from all the heartache is that our own egos and desires must give way to the glory and sovereignty of God. "Victory" in church politics is not the goal - pointing away from ourselves to Jesus Christ is the victory of truth.

1 comment:

David Handy+ said...

Tim+,

I share your feelings, the frustration, anger etc. with the corrupt, faithless leadership of the Episcopal Church at many levels. You needn't suppress or apologize for the anger, which is not only natural but proper. Paul himself shows great righteous indignation at those he scahingly attacks as "false apostles" in this very chapter.

Of course, how we ACT on those feelings is the crucial thing. Like the Psalmist, the safest thing is to turn those angry feelings into prayer, letting the Lord deal with those we find so hard to handle. I know you are aware of this, Tim+; I mention it only for the benefit of any readers of these comments.

2 Cor. 10-13 contains the harshest comments Paul ever makes anywhere in his letters about his theological opponents, whom he accuses of being agents of Satan, having been deceived by our Enemy. And that is exactly how I view the so-called "progressive" leaders of TEC. At times we have to keep reminding ourselves that people like the Presiding Bishop are NOT the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood... Rather, they are POWs, prisoners of our true Enemy, who is the Father of Lies.

Lord, have mercy upon us all.