Sunday, January 22, 2012

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Epiphany III
January 22, 2012
Fr. Phil Eberhart

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Keep the Main Thing, The Main Thing!

Well, I’m back! I’m exhausted and frustrated and still needing a few days sleep, I think. I’ve posted my thoughts on your emails this morning and the article on my perspective on both conferences is on David Virtue’s website.

People are asking me now, what is our response? I will say it again, as I said it in my first response on my blog,
                 "Please also know that your "place" in the Anglican Communion is secure. We will pray for our leaders and wait on clarity in this situation, without proffering opinions or judgments about the actions heretofore. We pray that time will be the friend of truth and that things which are done in secret will come to the light, on both sides of the equation. I know that there are always two sides to any conflict and my experience has led me to also know that we are all broken and in need of grace. So let us give grace and prayer and time."

It is certain at this point that clarity has not been achieved yet. After attending both the Winter Conference and the Sacred Assembly in NC this past 10 days, I’ve come away with less certainty in most areas and way less clarity than I thought I had. Our leaders need our prayers and support now more than ever.

Just briefly here’s what I know I know:
1. I am a priest of Rwanda. That has not changed.
2. This church is an AMiA parish, waiting on clear direction.
3. Our bishop has stepped back for the moment, as a new direction is being discerned and as reconciliation is being sought with Rwanda. The Anglican Mission is being advised by its founding ArchBishops, Kolini, Tay and Yong Ping Chung, all very godly men who have established their track record in distinguished servant leadership among us over the past decade. No one is saying that this is the permanent solution.
4. We are going to wait on the reconciliation process being pursued by Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya and the GAFCON Council. This will address both the reconciliation and the structural questions that are questions of Anglican polity, I trust and hope.
5. Once clear choices are on the table, we will pray together for a season and make a choice if needed, but there is no time-line for that process, nor is there a need for quick action here.
6. I will pray and work for peace amongst our leaders at every turn, and ask the Lord of His Church to restore a biblical unity and direction to the AMiA and to the relationship with Rwanda.

Until then, I want to point to our collect this morning and to several portions from the reading, and say that we are to keep the main thing, the main thing! In my talking to people about Jesus, not one of them has asked me about who my spiritual authority is. Our business is to connect people to Jesus Christ and to His Kingdom!

Since when is strife in the church a NEW thing? This too will pass. Be at peace.  Stay in repentant and obedient prayer for our leaders “up top.” God will work out the details according to His plan. And of that I AM CERTAIN!

Read the collect with me again:
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friends, this is the main thing! This is our vocation in the Anglican Mission! This is our calling as Christian believers!! Be on high alert as you walk around and talk to people for the CALL of our Savior Jesus Christ to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.

Epiphany is the season of revelation. It is the revealing of the mystery of God’s plan of redemption for the whole world in Jesus Christ. And the revealing happens through you! People are starving to know that God exists and moreover that He loves them and has them in mind – He has a plan, in the midst of all the “stuff” that life throws our way.

The revelation of God’s love and His plan for others, comes as they see you going through your life’s ups and downs, blessings and challenges, in relationship to God and in reliance on God.

The disciples in our Gospel lesson where engaged in their every day activities, fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Mark’s gospel takes a picture that is much larger and crops it into a small shot at the moment in time when Jesus invited the fishermen to come with him, to follow him as disciples, as learners from a teacher – and the subject matter, “Fishing 101” – but for people.

Intrigued? They were. And so they left their commercial nets and boats and began to walk alongside Jesus as he encountered life, as He taught in their homes and in the markets and synagogues. As he touched and healed blind and lame, lepers and all manner of unclean people, they watched and learned. The heard his message, “Repent and believe the good news.” The Kingdom of God has come near – its AT HAND. In fact, its right in front of you!

We bring that same message! The disciples followed Jesus for many months as He “went about all the towns and villages of Galilee, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Matt 4:23; 9:35. But then we transition to a new phase of his public ministry. In Matt 10 and Luke 10, Jesus sends out the 12 and the 72 to go on ahead of himm with the words, “Freely you have received, freely give!” He gave them authority to heal and to drive out demons, and to say, as He did, The Kingdom of God is near you. “Repent, and believe the good news.”

This is our message and our method. This is our vocation as Christians. This is The Main Thing that we need to keep The Main Thing. Everything else is a distraction. All the stuff we run into in life in the world, even the stuff we run into sometimes in the church, must not detract our vision from the main thing!

Who are you praying for? Do you have a list of people who you’ve talked with over the past months who are on their journey? Are you encouraging them? Praying for them? Going for coffee with them? Do you send notes or emails? Do they know that you love them?

Evangelism isn’t a question and a prayer with someone – a stranger to you, although sometimes that happens. Evangelism is living your life on Mission – living your life On Purpose – God’s Purpose! Evangelism is living as a blessing to others, both in word and deed. “Church for the sake of others,” as Bishop Todd Hunter puts it. This is the main thing!

The main thing is the steps of Luke 10:

a. Live your life as a blessing and speak peace into people’s lives. It will get their attention

b. Hang out with them, eat with them, share your life and let them share theirs.

c. In the course of life, you will see ways that you can serve them, and meet some of their needs, in the name of Jesus. Do it. Do it immediately and cheerfully, and when they look at you and ask, “Why?”

d. Say, “the Kingdom of Heaven has come near you.”

Tell them the great news of God’s unfailing love for them – so much so that He sent His Son to give them eternal life, and you to meet their need.

I want to close this morning with a familiar prayer, from the words of St. Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

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