Thursday, April 23, 2009

A prayer for my generation of Episcopalians, and the wreck we've made of the Church.

Paul, First Letter to the Church in Corinth, Chapter 3

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human?

Lord, we value our own egos and causes above you. Like infants, we treat you as a magical story to fulfill our desires. We are jealous and quarrel, because we cherish no common Gospel - just a bunch of conflicting tales to tell. We accept and promote those who justify our own sins and biases. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is not growing among us. We sow to please our selfish desires, not the Spirit.


What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Lord, we think too much of ourselves and we play favorites. We put mere human personalities in your place. We've lost sight of each other's gifts and can't work together. With no common purpose, we do not serve you. Our church is not growing or building up - it is withering and falling down around us. Yet we deny the obvious and continue in foolish ways.


According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Lord, we have not taken care. We have squandered what we inherited and set up a flimsy facade that hides you from people who need your salvation. We make them look at us when they are seeking you.


Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Lord, we have built with the "hay and straw" of ideology, sensationalism, emotionalism and self-interest, while we distract ourselves with "pretty things" in church. Already, our shoddy work is burning down around us. How fortunate we are that you are merciful and loving, and can save us from our self-made death traps.


Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Lord, have mercy on leaders in the church and help them to hear this warning. The Episcopal Church is not being destroyed from without, but from within. Please help those who are deluding, scattering and discouraging the people. Help them see their great risk and bring them back to faithful work in your service.


Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, and again,‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Lord, our generation believes its own press releases. We believe that we know more than those who walked with you and preached you at great cost. We believe that our generation is uniquely gifted and entitled - that we define you rather than belong to you. We follow those who boast of their intellect, or "spirituality," or "health," or some other human quality. We call ourselves "thinking people" while parroting slogans. We call ourselves "healthy" while questioning the sanity of any who disagree with us. We call ourselves "inclusive" while driving away all who are unlike us. We call ourselves "peaceful and just" while we inflict our pain and rage on the people we are sent to serve. We are no better than the world, and we seek the world's approval and clutch at its fading treasures.

Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, by your cross and precious blood you have redeemed us. Save us and help us, we humbly beseech you O Lord.


For my own part, I confess to having promoted falsehood, especially in my first years out of seminary. I confess to the vanity of thinking myself more intelligent than the faithful, when I was simply mouthing ideology I'd not bothered to explore. I confess to having driven faithful Christians out of the church with my bloated clergy ego.


I confess to the vanity of thinking that my generation, in affluence and safety, had reached some higher understanding of Jesus than those who had suffered great hardship and loss for his name. And I confess to looking down my nose at simply faithful people who didn't know all the jargon of my caste.


I confess to cafeteria morality in my Christian years, ignoring teaching that was uncomfortable and twisting other teachings to rationalize my self-serving behaviors.


I confess to having adopted "the party line" at times, simply to advance my "career" in the church. And I confess that I contributed to the polarized mess that the church is now by my own undisciplined, hypocritical actions.


I confess to not identifying and resisting manifest sin and unfaithfulness in the church, in order to claim the label "tolerant" and get approval.


I confess that I have not accepted the justice of bearing the consequences of these and many other sins. I have, upon returning to the Gospel, acted as if I'd never departed. I confess to the harsh way I've gone after some who are caught up in sins I should understand and approach gently. I confess that I've feigned "shock" at a compromised church when I've been among those who have compromised it. And I confess that I've expected God to "make it all better" for my sake rather than "make me over" for Christ's sake.

Out of gas for now. May God have mercy.


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