In the post below this one, we have a good discussion about the importance of belief in the historic, literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead - an article of faith at which the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Organization scoffs.
One of her defenders raises a very good question, "Why should everybody in church have to believe the same thing about the resurrection?" Let me give some perspective on that, as it connects with this Sunday's lessons (Revised Common Lectionary) and those read last Sunday in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
I. Not everybody will believe, but leaders must.
In Acts 2:42-47, we get a snapshot of the early church. There were tons of recent converts - clearly, not all of them understood everything in the same way. As we read in other parts of Acts, some joined out of warped motives and some required quite a bit of teaching to fix incorrect assumptions about Jesus.
But there were common things around which they gathered as they grew. One of these was "devotion to the apostles' teaching." Even if the members of the church were all over the map in what they understood, the apostles taught with one accord that Jesus rose from the dead. When Peter preached, he "stood with the eleven," all of the apostles joined in one proclamation of the risen Christ.
In Anglicanism, Bishops carry on the ministry of the apostles. It is essential that they affirm the great mysteries of our faith - even if church members harbor doubts about this or that. For a "Presiding Bishop" to publicly dismiss the resurrection is a failure of faith, leadership, and even morality. To take a title, position and perks and then show no responsibility for the well being of those who elected you is profoundly evil.
II. To play fast and loose with the resurrection of Christ is to place oneself and others in spiritual danger.
Christians are always under attack from "the world, the flesh and the devil." Powerful, selfish interests of this world have a vested interest in denying supernatural authority. Because they want us to be in their service, they need to cast doubts on unique Christian affirmations so they can enslave us to their agendas.
The flesh is sin at work within us. Each of us has unique ways of rebelling against God, but we all share the core sin of pride - of trying to push God out of the center of the universe so we can take His place. Extolling "our opinions" about the resurrection is one form of this. To say that there is no sacred teaching that is more important than our opinions is to idolize ourselves.
The devil is a liar. Because the resurrection of Christ is true, the devil needs to cast doubt. That simple.
In the 23rd Psalm, the Good Shepherd has a "rod and staff". The staff (Bishops carry one as a sign of their office) is used to pull and poke the sheep and keep them moving toward food, water and safety. The rod is a club - it is to whack predators.
This Presiding Bishop is misusing the shepherd's tools. She is pushing and pulling the flock into a wasteland where they will be food for predators, and she is using the rod to knock down good shepherds who would guide the flock to green pastures and living water.
III. Leaders who deny the resurrection are doing an "inside job" to help the devil destroy the church.
I Peter 2:25 speaks of Jesus as the "shepherd and guardian of your souls" (NRSV). The Greek word behind "guardian" is episkopos, which in other translations is rendered "overseer" or "bishop."
Because Christ entrusts his church to apostolic leaders, Bishops take on this responsibility to protect the souls of the people for whom Christ died to take away sin and rose to give new life. For the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to ignore her duty as episkopos is to be like a bank guard who leaves the doors open for robbers. If she doesn't believe in the resurrection, she has no business guarding the treasure - souls beloved by Christ.
IV. Jesus rose from the dead to give life. To deny that is to "steal, kill and destroy."
John 10:1-10 affirms that Jesus' followers don't always understand him. But he keeps teaching them and points out that he has come so that people "may have life, and have it abundantly." And he is clear that this life will come only to those who hear his voice, follow his path, and make his life their own. His life is available to share because he is risen from the dead.
What of those who turn him into a literary symbol rather than a living reality? If they are religious leaders, he has harsh words: they are "a thief and a bandit...The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."
Might faithful Christians wonder about and even doubt the resurrection? At points in life, we all run into doubts. As we see in John 10:1-10, when Jesus' followers don't understand him, he keeps reaching out to help them know who he is. God is patient and loving.
But those set apart to lead and teach in Christ's name must believe in the resurrection and proclaim it to the world. To do any less is to betray Christ, the people he comes to save, and even one's own soul.