STATE OF THE FLOCK - FEB 1, 2015
I want to welcome you to REZ this morning. For this address I traditionally take the podium and speak more formally, so all can hear and understand. I call this address the State of the Flock Address, and I hope that I can adequately reflect all that is happening here at REZ and adequately reflect the Hope that is among us.
As I approach this time, I spend days thinking about what and how to say what needs to be said. I come this year with a profound sense of gratitude and gratefulness, both to God and to each of you who form the Body of Christ here at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship. I am mindful of the distance God has brought us together, first of all. From a humble beginning in 1996 through the "changes and chances" of a journey now almost 20 years in the making! Some here this morning were there on the first Sunday, a fresh recruit, a year and a half out from ordination was appointed to a small congregation struggling to survive. I think there was an element of recognition and a bond that quickly developed, between priest and people at that little Episcopal congregation called St. George's Church. From that time to 2001 we struggled together and grew out of survival mode to be a growing parish of nearly 200.
In 2001, around Easter we made a move, as a congregation - as part of a congregation into the Anglican Mission under the oversight and covering of Rwanda's Archbishop Kolini. Challenged by pioneering bishops and archbishops, willing to break convention for the sake of the Gospel, we left building and land behind and became a mobile church - a "church in a box!" Since that time we have met in 6 different venues over a period of nearly 14 years now. Today I'm grateful for this place, it's beauty and its availability to us. We moved here in the Winter of 2009, just months after the great financial crash of 2008. It is as if God swept us into an eddy in the raging river of our times and protected us in the palm of His hand. Only once in that time from then to now, have we had a rent increase! We are now in the beginning of our sixth year in this facility, and our relationship with Horan-McConaty is better than ever. For them, I praise God.
In August of 2012 our affiliation returned to the United States and the newly formed Anglican Church in North America. We maintain normal relationships with our friends in Rwanda but are now overseen by Bishop Bill Atwood, of the International Diocese of ACNA. There is a growing affinity among the churches of our region and I now serve as the Dean of the Colorado churches under Bishop Bill. I am his "boots on the ground" in the local area and am also a member of the Diocesan Standing Committee, a kind of 'board' for the Diocese. Bishop Bill and I have a growing love and respect for one another, sharing many of the same values and relationships around the globe and around the country. I look forward to a long relationship with this bishop and this diocese.
At REZ I am constantly humbled and amazed by you people. We have a culture at this church that is one of the warmest, most genuinely caring places I have ever been. Am I boasting? Sorry! but not really. God has done this among us, through the things that we have suffered. In the book we are studying this month, Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes the claim that Christ is present today in the form of the Christian Community - the Body of Christ, what he calls the "Sanctorum Communio" (Holy Fellowship). I have been part of working to embody that reality since only a few years after my conversion in 1973! As a teen, in university as a freshman, I experienced such a "holy fellowship" among the men on our floor at Oral Roberts University - it was influenced greatly by a movement of renewal from the Episcopal Church, the Church of the Redeemer in Houston, TX at the time. It marked my heart and mind so deeply, that I now believe and have striven toward the ideal that the common life of the Church is the primary expression of God's plan for this planet - Jesus and His disciples, and subsequently all the way down to us in the pews today, are God's Plan A - and there is no Plan B!
Our life together, the way we love one another, in fact, is the primary sign to the world that Jesus is just who He claimed to be! What Jesus said and did while here on earth sets the pace, the example for us in the Church. But we are further empowered by the Holy Spirit, alive and active in our midst, to bring about the kind of Holy Fellowship that is only possible under his empowerment and by his grace-filled leadership. For years now, we have looked to the second chapter of ACTS as our model and guide for our life and mission at REZ, but before verse 42 comes verse 38:
[Act 2:38-39 ESV] 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
The life of our parish community here at REZ is not primarily about our programs or our facility, but it is about our relationships. Under the guidance and empowerment of the Spirit of God, we are called to simply "love one another, as I have loved you." By this love, Jesus tells us, you will prove you are my disciples AND the world will know, both who Jesus is and what He has come to do! We are given a Great Commandment and a Great Commission in that light:
The Great Commandment:
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
(Like unto the above, that includes: Love your neighbor as yourself)
and then ... The Great Commission:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations ... etc.
We are a great commandment community
with a great commission vision!!
Our vision statement is pretty simple and straight forward:
Connecting people to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom...
How we do that is also clear for all to see:
... through a loving, biblically-rooted Anglican community gathered in South Denver.
We are like a tree, planted, as John saw, by a river of living water, bearing fruit in its season.
We live our lives along the four meridians of Acts 2:42:
> Devotion to the Word of God;
> Practice of Holy Communion;
> Authentic (Eucharistic) Community (marked by hospitality);
> and a vital, active life of Prayer, both individual and corporate.
These are the formative guidelines for our life together here at REZ and as a result we look for the things that happened in the first churches as a result of those foci:
These resulted in the Awe of God present in the Community.
These resulted in the Miracles of God worked through the Community.
These resulted in an Intentional "Communitas" lived into by the Community.
These resulted in a Radical Generosity among the members of the Community.
These resulted in Shared Resources, both in the Community and outwardly directed.
These resulted in Daily Conversions, in the context of worship and meals and life - together, as God himself added to their numbers.
Friends, this is the vision we have for REZ. It is high and it is hard. We come to this task as broken people, yet we are called together. We're a family, and we act like a family! Sometimes that's good and sometimes that's bad! We get on one another's nerves, but don't let anyone pick a fight with our little brother or sister! We pick on one another, but come to each other's rescue quickly when times get hard.
The job description for the Body of Christ is best laid out in Ephesians 4:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
This is the target, friends. If you ever ask, where is this church headed? It's right there!
It's not a place, it’s a people.
It's not program, it's position ... IN CHRIST. It is BEING.
And how does this "being" come to expression here at REZ?
WILLINGNESS ~ AVAILABILITY ~ OBEDIENCE
It comes to be expressed through the three steps of discipleship that we hear of so often, of Willingness, of Availability and of Obedience.
Through these three steps in our life as Disciples of Jesus, we come to actually be who we say we want to be.
a) Willingness is where our heart’s journey begins. David prayed "uphold me with a willing spirit." We turn our will over to God in daily surrender, just as Jesus did in the garden, "Not my will, but thine be done." As we pray daily or weekly in the Lord's Prayer, "thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
b) Avail-ability is the only ability we can bring to God's work. We offer our time, our hands, our feet, our lips, our finances, our "selves, our souls and bodies." Clearing time for Him to speak, to act, to work through us in the lives of others - this is costly. Schedules are packed these days - finances are tight - we tire of doing good easily. But our availability clears the way for God to use us in the plain comings and goings of every day life.
c) And finally, as God leads us we are simply obedient to follow and do. We are engaged in a 'long obedience in the same direction.' God shows up and people are helped, some are healed - seeds are sown of faith and love - care is expressed, prayers are prayed in homes and cars and restaurants and bars. And God hears and answers, the humble request of faith on behalf of another. Churches are built - people are saved - bibles are translated - orphanages are supplied - wells are dug - pumps are made - ministers are raised up and deployed in the Kingdom of God around the world. In short, we are engaged in "turning the world upside down!" Actually, we're turning the world UPSIDE RIGHT!
Look through the booklet you will get after the service, and marvel at what God is doing, among us and through us in the world, both near and far. And so our work and our prayers continue; every day we are called anew by His mercies to be co-workers with Him in His work, in His Kingdom, as further and further it advances toward its final goal, and ours:
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace; So clothe us with your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of your Name.
Amen. and Amen.
Fr. Phil Eberhart