Tuesday, February 5, 2013

State of the Flock - Feb 2013

State of the Flock
February 3, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart

(Audio Podcast)
Each year we spend this Sunday looking back at the past year and ahead at what we think the future holds. Last year at this time we were embroiled in events on the international stage that bore fruit all the way down to our parish. I spent an inordinate amount of time and money attending events and listening to Bishops and Archbishops as they rehearsed the events of 2011 and their aftermath. What we have been left with is a divided Anglican witness in America - the land where we can least afford such a thing.

For us at Rez it meant a lateral move of jurisdiction from the Anglican Mission in the Americas into the Anglican Church in North America, and the International Diocese. Through the careful approach that was taken and through your great patience with an almost year-long process, we have come through virtually unscathed in our affiliations and in our relationships. We are still closely related to our friends in Rwanda, though not jurisdictionally. We are related by choice and by relationship, as we are with our other mission partners around the world.

Our change to the International Diocese and Bishop Bill Atwood is one that is well matched with our commitment and investment in relationships around the globe. Bishop Bill has been a key figure in connecting the Communion together through relationships and communication for nearly three decades.  Because of his priority for relational ministry, Bishop Bill was understanding that in this transition year we wanted to be careful to honor and maintain our friendship and honor for Bishop Sandy Greene as well. Though the days of official visitations from Bishop Sandy are over we continue to be in good relationship with him and his wife, Gigi. In fact, we will have a special evening and service to honor them this month, on the evening of the 20th as we gather with many from Colorado to pray for and bless them in this new season of ministry. Put that on your calendar for Wednesday, Feb. 20 @ 7 pm.

And of course, as you know, Bishop Sandy and Gigi will be present and he will preside at our daughter Aly's wedding this fall on Sept 21.

This past year has been a momentous -- even a tumultuous one, but God has brought us through intact and looking forward to 2013 and beyond. We are not without our challenges as things have gotten tighter financially, largely as a result of some significant retirements and relocations this past year. An already tight budget, got tighter and layoffs and cuts were needed to balance for this year. We will hear more on that in our next hour. We had high hopes for national changes this fall that did not come to pass, and many are reassessing their finances these days and the church and nonprofit sector are suffering greatly all across this country. We are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. Though that doesn't make it much easier, it always serves to remind us of Who our supply is and that reliance on God is what we are all about here.

That being said, we continue to look forward to the days ahead and to expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven through our little outpost here at Resurrection. Despite the difficulties of our times we press on to obtain, as the Apostle Paul said it, the "prize of the high calling, for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus!" Though we have seen some setbacks this year we are also experiencing a season of unshakable peace and of His presence in the midst of our worship and fellowship. According to our prayers, God is answering with open doors of opportunity for ministry and with the grace of new faces in our midst, all of whom we welcome with open arms and hearts, not because they are the answer to our problems, but because they are the answer to our prayers.

Earlier last year we were reminded of the words in scripture that tell us, "You have not because you ask not.".  And so we have been asking; asking God, the Lord of the Church to send us new faces. I and the intercessors are asking for a specific number and we are seeing the first fruits of those prayers answered. Our growth isn't exponential, yet, but we know and trust that growth comes from the Lord and that it is in His time and in His way.

We continue to be impressed and to have the words of Acts 2:42 and the verses following it as a guide for our life together. The model of the post-Pentecost community is one that we see holding great value for us, as a parish and as we look for the move and presence of God in the wider Body of Christ and in the world around us. The four marks or markers of that first community were 1) faithfulness and devotion to Apostolic teaching, that is, the Bible as the Word of God; 2) an intentionally deep, daily sharing of common life; 3) the priority of the Lord's Table in our midst and by extension, His hospitality in and through our own lives and homes; and finally, 4) a commitment to prayer. These are the marks of measurement by which we evaluate our life here at Rez; through which we view and by which we structure our priorities for program and action.

Our vision is one of connection. Connecting people to God through a vital, daily, authentic and personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is our utmost priority. Connecting people into the present and powerful Kingdom of Heaven here on earth is next - the family of all God's People, next door and around the world. And all this happens, not through an outstanding worship team or pianist, though they are and they are important! It's not through a dedicated staff and leadership team, which we have; it's not even through a good-looking, charismatic, and nearly famous, humble parish priest! No!

All of this happens through you: a loving, biblically-rooted, Anglican community, prayerfully listening with willingness of heart and mind, living in availability to daily opportunities and walking in obedience to His direction, in your homes and lives, in your workplaces, across S. Metro Denver and out from here to the ends of the earth.

Friends, our priorities remain clear and unchanged, through all the changes and chances of our life in these United States and in these times that we live in. We are the People of God and as such we are called to be the light in an ever darkening world. The light never complains about the darkness, it simply dispells it by being The Light! The problems we see around us are not new or even different these days than what has been faced by every generation of God's People - we have always been and must always be fully reliant on God, and as Jesus expressed, unwilling that any should perish without Him. This is the heart of our desire and the desire of our heart at Rez.

This morning I invite you anew into the adventure - the adventure of following Jesus. Let Him be on the front seat of your tandem bike. Let Him be the pilot, instead of the co-pilot. God has an incredible adventure for you, and for all of us together at Rez and in the Body of Christ in the days ahead. Hold on tight, and fasten your seat belt. You haven't seen anything yet!

Amen and amen.
Epiphany 2013