Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Sermon You Probably Won't Hear on Super Sunday

This Sunday's second lesson (Revised Common Lectionary) is 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.

As the Primates (Presiding Bishops) of the 38 global Anglican Provinces meet over the better part of the coming week, this Bible lesson throws light on why The Episcopal Church and a few allied provinces it subsidizes are in the wrong and damaging the Anglican Communion:

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

The "knowledge" here is gnosis, an ancient religious system based on the idea that only a few illuminated people understand reality, and that this knowledge is not available to lesser beings. It is The Episcopal Church (TEC) that claims new and special spiritual revelation, secret "knowledge" not available to those who seek knowledge in the Bible and long-standing church teaching. TEC asserts its secret knowledge over and against centuries of Christian teaching and global Christian consensus. And this kind of "knowledge" leads to arrogance instead of the love needed to build up the church. TEC brings the worst possible disposition into the Primates' meeting.

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Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "no idol in the world really exists," and that "there is no God but one." Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth-- as in fact there are many gods and many lords-- yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Christianity seeks its answers by looking into the nature of God - the work of theology. And Bishops in particular are to teach and defend Christian theology. But TEC and its allies argue that theology is irrelevant - only "polity" (organizational by-laws) are relevant to resolving disputes. TEC brings the worst possible methodology into the Primates' meeting.

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It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. "Food will not bring us close to God." We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.

The early Christians lived and taught in a culture marked by religious diversity. There were many gods and cults, and people "mixed and matched" depending upon their felt needs. Christians challenged people to place faith in the one God. But the early church also realized that people would make spiritual progress at different paces, and warned its members to avoid practices that could confuse new converts. TEC, on the other hand, asserts a "baptismal covenant" in which all suddenly leapfrog to maturity (including leadership) in the church. People can do what they want as long as they are baptized, and everybody else just needs to accept everything uncritically. As a consequence, TEC chooses spiritually underdeveloped leaders who increasingly mix and match with non-Christian religions, confusing and deluding the church. TEC brings the worst possible spirituality into the Primates' meeting.

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But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Christianity declares radical freedom, in which holiness is expressed in Christ-like qualities rather than strict adherence to rules and rituals. But with this freedom comes great responsibility, based on the Christian concept of love. Love puts others first. A mature Christian will sacrifice or restrain some "rights" for the good of those who are struggling to become more Christ-like. But TEC teaches self-expression without responsibility. It exalts individuals and elites and considers "lesser" clergy and congregations expendable. In this case, it isn't what TEC brings that is the problem - it is what TEC doesn't bring. By its rigorous rejection of the Bible, TEC fails to understand and therefore cannot bring love to the Primates' meeting.

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The Bible lesson reflects what the Archbishop of Canterbury has been saying over the last few years. Some folks, however enlightened or important they might consider themselves, must practice loving restraint for the good of the whole church. TEC has rejected this call, and now the Anglican "Communion" is an unravelling tapestry of unrestrained factions.

In another part of this same letter to the Corinthians, we find this warning to those who arrogantly damage the church:

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. (3:16-18)

May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ's shed blood, send the Holy Spirit to guide some of TEC's leaders back to the way, the truth and the life. TEC's leadership is harming Christ's people and destroying itself.

2 comments:

Dobrdale said...

Great analysis of the situation. No one can fail to understand the direction of TEC after reading this.

GA/FL said...

"May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ's shed blood, send the Holy Spirit to guide some of TEC's leaders back to the way, the truth and the life. TEC's leadership is harming Christ's people and destroying itself."

Amen. Holy Father, please grant repentance to all who will hear and return to Thee.