Once again we gather to look back and to look forward, so welcome! Welcome to the "State of the Flock Address, 2014."
The past year for REZ has been one of challenge and of partnership. As we came through 2012 we gained a new affiliation in the International Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America, under the oversight and care of Bishop Bill Atwood. This year has been one of settling into that new home, while keeping old friendships and associations alive. There is a mix of both anticipation at what lies ahead of us, in the formation and regularization of the Anglican Church in North America, and sadness, at what has been lost in the shifting sand of transition from one thing to another.
At REZ we have perhaps one of the closest church families I've ever been a part of. Evidenced by the care displayed in real ways for one another, it is a joy to come together in fellowship and prayer, in worship and study each week. I come away from our worship services on Sunday mornings energized and grateful for each one of you. As we have focused in the past years on the model of community in Acts 2, the Lord is bringing it to pass in our midst. Let me review that passage for a moment:
The Believers Form a Community
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[i]), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[j]— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved
If we use these verses as a benchmark we can see several things that are prominent in our church and some that we need to work towards.
First, there was unity across the church in four areas:
1. Devotion to the Apostolic Teaching. Our modern day equivalent is devotion to the Word of God. The Bible takes a central place in our life here at REZ and always has. It's truth is the reason we are who and where we are. The scriptures form the core of our identity, in the stream of both the ancient Christian community and the historic community of the Anglican Church. There is no substitute for devotion to God's Word.
2. Devotion to a Common Life. What was different about the early church was its "common life" - fellowship. It is really what is described in the verses following v. 42: meeting together around meals, Eucharist and teaching ... shared resources ... radical generosity ... common daily worship ... house fellowships ... AND ... the Lord adding to their number daily!
3. Devotion to Common Worship. The early church worshipped ... everywhere they were. In the marketplace, town square, temple, homes. It was a lifestyle, not a meeting to go to. It included the Holy Eucharist - the Lord's Table in the tradition set out by Jesus himself, but it also extended that table fellowship at the Lord's Table into the homes of each family, each believer.
4. Devotion to Common Prayer. The disciples first line of defense was the community's prayer life. It was the setting into which the Lord poured His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and it continued to be the place that the community came to, as persecution set in and as they were sent out from Jerusalem into Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world. Prayer was the hallmark of the Church, even as Jesus said, "My house will be a house of prayer for all nations."
These four marks of Christian community are marks we value at REZ and they form the crosshairs for our life together:
> The Word of God - (hand up) Heard ... Read ... Marked ... Learned and Inwardly Digested.
> The Daily Life Together - Bible Studies, Home Groups, Intercessors, Men's Group
> Our Eucharistic Hospitality - The Table on Sunday and every other day, hospitably offered in our homes and workplaces.
> Our Prayer Life - Sunday worship, Healing prayers, Intercessions, Prayer lists, and our once-monthly vigil offered for revival in the city, the state and the nation.
Out of these arise the life and witness that we have here at Resurrection.
Out of these arise the impact we have both individually and as a community.
Out of these arise the unity that we feel with other believers in our Anglican stream and across the Body of Christ.
This year of 2014 has been a year of partnership in the Gospel -
From the ONE NEW MAN unity event we co-hosted at Church in the City, early in the year, with worship leaders Claren and Nancy McQueen, to regular partnerships with the James Resource Network and She-She's Upscale Resale. Our ongoing support for Alternatives Pregnancy Center and the Right to Life movement, as well as continuing support for political initiatives that support the family. REZ supports with our presence and prayers, the Colorado Family Council and the Colorado Prayer Caucus, active at the State house among Christians on both sides of the aisle.
From working with National Day of Prayer and with Confluence Ministries at our local Cinco De Mayo celebration, to membership and partnering with the New Wineskins Missionary Network, as a board member and as worship leaders for this past year's conference in North Carolina.
We continue to partner with International Bible Translators on the Dungan Project, which has produced almost a whole translation of the Bible into the N. Chinese Dungan (muslim) dialect. The community of Dungan believers has grown from 3 believers to 3 churches in the time we have been involved.
We are working toward the finishing of the parish church building in Ngarama, and remain vitally connected to all our friends in Rwanda. We were able to send a gift in excess of $1,350 for Christmas and will monitor the ongoing progress of the roof for the church in the coming year. We will be sending more wedding gowns this year as well, to start a new shop in the Diocese of Shogwe, in partnership with Wellspring Church, as they go in February. This will make six gown shops that are open in Rwanda, two in Uganda, one in Congo and one waiting for gowns in the Diocese of Nakuru, in Kenya. Please pray that God will show us ways to bless our friends in Africa with sustainable means of income and development.
Also pray for the completion of the Lord's Pump Project, that Al Throckmorton and Doug McCain are working on now, almost full time. They are coming close to completing a pump that will run on the water it pumps! This will be a revolution for water wells in Africa as well as a boon for other applications around the world.
We continue to share resources with Bishop James Mugenyi in Ft. Portal, Uganda to make his radio outreach ministry possible, thereby enabling church planting and explosive growth in that area. Just one baptismal service this past year yielded over 700 baptisms!! In the coming months, Doug will be going back to Uganda we believe, with leaders from Promise Keepers to explore introducing PK into Uganda in the coming year. God has given us favor and contacts throughout Uganda to help with the starting of this vital ministry to men in Africa.
On local fronts, as Anglicans in Colorado, I serve as Chairman of the Board for the Colorado Anglican Society, recently renamed from Colorado Missionary Society. We work to provide a basis for unity among all the orthodox Anglican bodies with churches and church plants in Colorado and Wyoming. We do two yearly Anglican Intensives, one just completed successfully yesterday, with almost 100 in attendance! We offer Leadership Development for clergy who are coming into the Anglican ministry - and we are working toward support mechanisms for clergy and spouses, for fellowship, nurture and support as they minister in their local churches.
I've been working this year with a number of younger ministers who are ordained or on the ordination track, as a mentor, as a discernment facilitator and as a support for their formation. We include among those our own Michael Smith, who, after one more weekend, we anticipate, will be presented to the Bishop, from REZ, for ordination. No dates just yet, but we have high hopes. We have come to appreciate Michael's gifts this past year, in preaching and teaching, as well as in the pastoral heart that he has.
I was privileged to be invited to the GAFCON Conference in Nairobi, Kenya and went with Bishop Bill and with several members of our International Diocese delegation, as a representative of Anglicans in Colorado. It was a historic gathering in October of 300+ Bishops and over 1300 delegates from around the global Anglican family. Globally, Anglicanism is alive and well, and an incredible force for ministry and outreach around the world. We literally saw the reality of a Body of Christ from "every tribe and tongue, every nation and people." I want to thank you for your support in that time away and for all the work that we are doing, locally and in so many parts of the world.
Personally, this past 6 months have been a vortex for Val and I, with our work and a big wedding, with trips to TX, OK, Kenya, then PA and IA - we are both even now still feeling rung out and enjoying a bit slower pace since the first of the year.
This year we will continue our partnerships with those working for and praying for revival in our city. We are watching the signs of the times very carefully and keeping our lamps trimmed and burning, as scripture warns us to do. Many are saying that the time is nearing for the return of our Lord and many signs are on the horizon. But it is not time to stop and wait, but for us to redouble our efforts to be the Church - to be in unity with each other and with our brothers and sisters - to be in prayer as never before - and to be "labors in the harvest" as Jesus sends us into the fields day after day.
We pray, together with the early church, "And now, O Lord, ... give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Our prayer is that the lines that follow Acts 2:42 would be seen and fulfilled among us, and most of all that "the Lord [will] add to our number day-by-day, those who are being saved."
Let it be, Lord, for your glory and for the glory of your Kingdom.