Wednesday, February 8, 2017

State of the Flock 2017

State of the Flock Address
Fr. Philip Eberhart
February 5, 2017

Welcome, my friends, to the Annual State of the Flock Address for 2017.

I think that many of us awoke on January 1, just about a month ago, happy that 2016 was in the rear view mirror!  In looking back over the year, both personally and professionally, for our family and for the church here, it was a year of change, renewal, almost a year of "reset!"

For the Eberhart's personally, almost all are aware of the remodel of our house, that was accompanied by an almost clean sweep of appliances and systems, including our heating and A/C, our washer/drier, our dishwasher, and of course, the death of my long time friend, the BOB - Big ol Burb.  Alongside all of those changes, came an accident at Val's work which broke her wrist and jammed her elbow and arm at the shoulder.  We are still engaged in that fight as many know and pray for daily or weekly.  For us the year, contained much upheaval and change.  It felt as though we had a big "reset" button on the house that Someone pressed!

This past year has also seen significant changes here at REZ as well, especially in our staff.  On the last Sunday night in June we had the only triple ordination I've ever seen, with Michael, our friend Jerry from Florida being priested and Ethel ordained a deacon.  Along side that our Reverend ladies, Margie and Barb were received as  priests by Bishop Bill on behalf of the ACNA and began to function fully along side myself, Edward and now Michael.  Over the past year the Lord has been forging us into a team to lead REZ.   You can see the new flow chart in your Report booklet outlining the many ministries and roles that each of us have.


We feel certain that God has brought us all together here at REZ for special purposes in His Kingdom.  Over the past year part of the task has been to eliminate the feel that this is all the Fr. Phil show - the "one-man-band" that it has been for so many years.  As I have been working more and more with Bp. Bill in our Diocese and in our City over the past couple of years, God has seen to it that the players have increased alongside me to bless this congregation and continue to grow it both in depth and in breadth.

Probably the greatest things that have happened this past year are these changes and the addition of truly amazing people who are willing to engage in ministry as volunteers in this parish.  I, Mary and Bonephas remain the only "paid" employees of this parish, while we have a very active ministry staff of priests and a deacon who volunteer their time throughout the week and are very active in the ministries of this church.  I wanted to say that very loudly for all to hear.  We have been given an extraordinary pool of talent both in the clergy and in the laity at this church.  The changes have been challenging at some points, but our focus is singular:  We want to exalt Jesus Christ and to draw near to His presence here at REZ;  We want to bring God's people to maturity, recognizing their own value and giftedness, taking their places in ministry as the Body becomes whole and sound; We want to be the Love of God, extended to the World, both near and far.  

I am reminded of a line in one of my favorite Pentecost hymns:  "tell of how a hundred people, turned the whole world upside down!"

When I talk about our church to people on the outside, in our diocese or across the city, I describe us as a "hobbit" church, small in stature, but with a great big hairy foot print!  You all completely amaze me!  In a few weeks you will have an opportunity to see all that we have our feet and fingers in, around the city and around the world.  When you step back from it and look, it is really amazing what God has accomplished through this small faithful band of friends.

Part of my role in this talk is to remind us of who we are and to challenge us to new things!

In years past we've talked a good bit about the Acts 2:42 formula as a template for the life of our parish:
  >  The Apostles' teaching
  >  The Fellowship
  >  The Breaking of Bread
  >  The Prayers

Each of these parts are faithfully represented in our life at Resurrection from the central part the Word of God takes in our services and preaching and teaching, to the depth of fellowship and belonging that we all feel to and for one another, to the hospitality of the Lord's table and extending that, of our own tables, to the powerful presence of Jesus that we feel as we pray in various ways and venues in this church!  The outcome of hitting that target is that we are in a place where love is the hallmark of our life together;  Where prayer happens at the drop of a hat;  Where funds are shared generously, as each has need; And finally, where people come to meet and encounter the presence of Jesus in His people, day by day.  All of these things are realities, in this, my favorite church!

And today God is calling us further up and closer in!

The prayers and the life-verses from Scripture apply to us as the Body of Christ!  Welcoming the Presence of Jesus Christ in the midst of His People is our goal here, the goal of all of us as clergy and we hope, all of us as worshippers together.  Jesus said that the Father seeks those out who will worship "in Spirit and in Truth."  We have always stiven, and continue to do so, to let the life of this parish run on those twin 'tracks'.  The leadership of Jesus through the power of His Spirit and the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as truth about our life together and the world around us.

Over and over in these last days, as we pray,  we have been hearing the prayers of St. Paul and his directions in Ephesians for this church.  Let me just read a couple of his prayers for the churches in Colosse and Ephesus, and the directions he gives to the church in Ephesus...

Prayer #1 is from Colossians 1:

We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.

 We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,[c]
 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom[d]and forgave our sins.

Prayer #2 is from Ephesians 1:  Similarly, Paul prays ...

I pray for you constantly,
 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom[f] and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.[g]
19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

Prayer #3 is from Ephesians 3:  Going deeper, Paul continues his prayer ...

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e]
15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen

And finally, the WHY of all the prayers:  from Eph 4...
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5   There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6    one God and Father of all,who is over all, in all, and living through all.
However, he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. 
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."

What we are called to, friends, here at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship, is nothing less than completing the work of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ and seeing Him present and exalted in our midst as His Body the Church in our day.  Over and over, you have put up with me harping on saying these things happen through our Willingness, our Availability and finally, our Obedience.  This simple trinity form what I call our REZ BE-ATITUDES!  The apostolic prayers of Paul and the promise of the Gifts of Christ in our midst, call us to a mature faith, a complete Body, which sees each of us operating in the Gifts of Christ as our motivation and mode of life in Him!!  
Over the next year we will be striving to live into and bring our life together into alignment with these Biblical directives and prayers. We live in times which require our best, friends.  We believe that we are much nearer to Jesus' return in our days and we are seeing many of the things that describe those days, the "last days", in Jesus teaching and throughout the Old and New Testaments, coming to us on our news channels!  I believe that we have been given a kind of time-out, a period where prayer and Christian living can lengthen the days, giving time for us to further the Kingdom of God in our nation and around the world.  
So let us continue to pray with and for one another; continue to pray for our partners in the Gospel around the nation and around the world.  Let us continue to reach for the Gifts of Christ in our midst and to live from a mature faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul prays, that He might be manifest in and among us, "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."
When that happens among us, Paul tells us, "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."
And we say, Amen, Lord!  Let it be so among us, and come quickly, Lord Jesus!!

Respectfully submitted,
Fr. Philip Eberhart