- Unpacking Anglican
- Ten Suggestions for Preparing for the Holy Eucharist
- Pastoral Letter On 6/16/15 SCOTUS Ruling
“Orthodox” means — in this case — “right thinking” about God’s Word. It means, thinking about Scripture the way the Church first thought of it prior to the unhappy divisions in the 11th and 16th centuries!
We believe that the Bible is God’s Word, full stop, no apologies, no “revision” for modern sensibilities. We believe that God’s Word speaks it’s own Truth, and that Truth is not negotiable, nor capable of being “voted on” in a General Convention of 21st century Christians taking counsel of their own opinions. Further, we believe that Scripture is its own interpreter: that is, we believe that any questions or apparent contradictions in God’s Word can be resolved by a wider, more integrated reading of the whole of the Bible, both Testaments, each of the four Gospels, and all the New Testament Letters, from John and Peter, James and the author of Hebrews, as well as from St. Paul, the Bible’s greatest theologian of all!
As Anglicans, our Way of worship bespeaks our dependence upon, love for, and celebration of God’s inerrant Word: the Bible. Our Book of Common Prayer would be largely empty without the direct or paraphrased versions of the Bible. We love God’s Word so much, that we use it to worship Him every day and twice on Sunday at Good Shepherd Anglican Church.
Biblical Truth has always been something with which Christians have had to struggle. The deepest things of God would be difficult to completely fathom, wouldn’t they?! In fact, one of the Church’s greatest minds, St. Gregory of Naziansus, proclaimed that the Blessed Holy Trinity and the deep recesses of God’s Nature are something that we must admit is — in the end — beyond our mere human capabilities to describe!
Why then, do we Anglicans bother with creeds?
The answer fits our condition. Without a godly summary of our Faith, a godly summary which the Ancient Church proclaimed as TRUE beyond question, we would be left to our own contemporary devices as to how to pass on to the next generation the great, wise, and holy insights of the Fathers of the Church in the first 10 centuries. We would be subject to all the delusions and passing passions of our current cultural issues, whatever those might be. We would be unprotected from charlatans who might say, “THIS [my own opinions] is the new, truer Way of knowing who God is.”
The creeds we use most, the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, are beautiful, biblically sound, triumphantly True declarations of who God is, and who we are, in His image. Actually, when we pray the creeds during the Daily Offices of Morning or Evening Prayer, and in the Sunday and weekday Masses, we are doing just that: Praying. Notice, this Sunday, what comes at end of every creed: the word “AMEN.”
Saying the Creed is praying the Creed. It is an offering up to God, anew, our utter dependence on His self-revelation (through the Bible and through His Incarnate Son’s Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension) and our joy at belonging to Him.
As Anglicans, our Creedal way of praying means that we may avoid heresy, stupidity and unfaithfulness by making sure what we preach, teach and talk about is in agreement with the Ancient Church’s understanding.
Can we vote on what we believe? Well, no. We live in the Kingdom of God, not the United States of God, nor the People’s Republic of Christianity. So, we joyfully accept and do not dare argue with the Creeds. Or else, if we argue, we must be prepared to show how the greatest minds over ten centuries were collectively wrong and we in the 21st century know ourselves to be “right.” How could we be that arrogant?
Spirit-Filled, Soul Winning
Anglicans believe in the Holy Spirit. Further, we believe that, at Holy Baptism, every new-born believer is filled with The Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches this. The Church’s experience confirms it. The only way we can authentically follow Jesus Christ is by the same Holy Spirit which conceived and lives in the Lord Jesus. We are the Body of Christ. That means we participate in and are held together by the Spirit of Christ. Not every spirit is the Holy Spirit. So, to be “spirit-filled” might mean “emotionally stirred,” “inspired to great praise,” “enthusiastic for the Kingdom.” But, for Anglicans, being “filled by the Holy Spirit” applies to every avenue of our life: from brushing our teeth in the morning, through worship throughout the day, to seeking and serving Christ in everyone we see, to using the Holy Spirit’s Gifts for the Glory of God the Father. All of life is lived in the Holy Spirit, if we will let Him have His way in our lives.
One very specific manifestation of being “Spirit Filled” is the pursuit of what the Holy Spirit is always in pursuit of: winning souls to Jesus Christ.
Of course, the first soul we are most responsible for “winning” with the Holy Spirit’s help and direction is, our own! Before we bless (inflict) our own understanding of how another person is being called to know and serve Jesus Christ, we must tend our own garden. Yet, having said that, the Bible is clear: the mission of believers is to go out in faithful service to God with the Good News that Jesus loves them, died for them, and that they can have eternal life through trusting in Him alone. In short: we are called to help the Holy Spirit win souls to Christ. We are to have evangelical (“filled with the message”) hearts: God wants to use us to help others come to repentance and Faith in His Son.
As Anglicans, our primary means of “soul winning” is Friendship with others. That is, we believe in the method Jesus Himself used to call sinners to the love of God. Jesus reached out to serve, heal, and exemplify the Good News He proclaimed. Never do we see Him simply “downloading” a teaching. Always, His Message is lived out in tangible demonstrations of the “Love” He is proclaiming. Likewise, Anglicans are at their best when they are not self-promotional, but living, loving, and sharing Christ by a “living sermon.” In one of the most powerful Renewal movements of the 20th Century, Cursillo, a method is taught which is so very simple: “Make a friend; Be a friend; Introduce your new friend to Jesus.” I can’t sum it up any better than that!
Little “c” Catholics who practice a Traditional Moral Life, in the family and in the Church.
To be a “little c” Catholic is to be a Catholic who is not in obedience to the Bishop of Rome. We Anglicans are not, in the Roman sense of the word, “Catholic.”
However, and this is extremely important, we are indeed ‘reformed Catholics.” That is, we hold the Faith which the Church held prior to its sad divisions in the 11th and 16th centuries.
We have certainly behaved as if we didn’t really believe the Catholic Faith. At times, we have had a kind of self-inflicted amnesia about what a Catholic Christian is. But, that does not mean that Anglicans can’t know who we are as reformed Catholics. We certainly can, and should. Here’s a very short and incomplete list of what Catholics practice, as opposed to those who do not:
- We accept the three-fold ordained ministry of Bishop/Priest/Deacon as the Anglican Way of providing godly, pastoral leadership in the Church.
- We worship according to a prayer book. We accept and rejoice in other, more extemporaneous forms of worship, but hold as precious the heritage of Anglican Prayer Book Worship as our primary celebration of the “Lord’s Day,” i.e. Sunday worship.
- We observe the Ancient Calendar of the Church: with the seasons of Advent/Christmastide/Epiphany/Lent/Eastertide/Ascension/Pentecost every year without fail. We do not give ourselves permission to take a year off from this observance! It is invariable. Why? At least one good reason I know: it keeps our minds and hearts focused on the Mystery of Jesus Christ, His birth, life, Passion, death, Resurrection, Ascension, etc. Following the church year also keeps us relatively in harmony with other catholic bodies, the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, for example.
- Shared authority between the ordained and lay ministers of the Church. Bishops rule in our Church. That means, when there is a final decision in our Church, and there has to be a singular ‘decision maker’, that decision maker is the duly elected, Holy Spirit-anointed Bishop of the Diocese. For us, that means the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker. There is no other diocesan bishop other than him. And, the claim that a national “presiding bishop” has spiritual or legal power over our bishop is inaccurate, legally and historically. Just as the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority over any bishop/priest/deacon/lay person in our diocese, so neither does the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church have any authority in our diocese. However, “shared authority” means that the bishop of the diocese shares his authority with other clergy, and with the duly elected representatives from every congregation in his diocese. So, at our Diocesan Convention in mid-November, you have one of the demonstrations of shared leadership, shared authority. Within our parish, we have a Vestry which makes decisions which only they can make. And, your Rector (yours truly) has areas of decision which are made only by him. And, frequently, we literally make decisions together, clergy and laity.
As To The Traditional Moral Life:
Catholic Christians follow the moral and ethical teachings of God’s Word and the godly direction of the Church for our family, parish and community lives.
This means, for an example, that we teach the Commandments of God, from both Old and New Testaments. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount give invaluable direction to how to live a godly life in Christ. Furthermore, we apply the Commandments of God without twisting them to mean what we would like them to mean. We do not, for instance, take the Command to join ourselves into one flesh in marriage as man and wife, one male and one female, and twist it to mean that any two people, regardless of sex , can be “married” in God’s Eyes. So: Faithful Anglicans do not accept or practice so-called “same-sex” marriage as God-blessed. This, of course, can give rise to controversy and resistance from a culture which is obsessed with individual rights over accountability to God. So be it. Anglicans must be faithful to the Lord, even if it gives heartburn to the cultural leaders in the USA in the year of our Lord 2013!
Of course, so much more can be and should be, said about what is the Traditional Moral Life for an Anglican. And, I hope to lead a class on this subject early in 2014. Certainly, the “same-sex marriage” issue is not the only important cultural challenge to Catholic Christians. However: I use it because it is such a clear example of why we must distinguish ourselves from the National Episcopal Church’s unfaithful promotion of immorality amongst its members We cannot be “unequally yolked” with those who have lost their way morally, and are teaching the next generation to accept and applaud what has been known to be an abomination in God’s eyes. We simply cannot “wink” and call it “okay” for our day!
Father Cardona leads an Instructed Eucharist at Good Shepherd for our congregation and the community on Saturday mornings, and with his permission, we share his suggestions for preparing one’s heart and mind to receive the sacrament of Communion.
How easy it is for our faith to decline, to get weak, or even to disappear. It is sad to say that one of the biggest religious groups in USA today are non-practicing Christians! Let us pray with fervor: “Lord I do believe but strengthen my faith!” Faith is like a seed planted in the ground. May our faith grow, blossom and flourish until we reach heaven!
In relationships, especially in marriages, one of the greatest perennial dangers is to start to take one’s spouse for granted. This can be lethal to any marriage. The same thing can insinuate itself into our relationship with the Eucharistic Lord: we can become accustomed or used to Mass and Holy Communion—even among daily communicants—and start to take the Lord for granted. We must guard against receiving Holy Communion mechanically! There is found in many sacristies these words, which serve as a reminder to priests to celebrate every Mass with faith and fervor: “Priest, man of God celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, last Mass and only Mass.” We should receive every Holy Communion as if it were our first, last and only Holy Communion.
CLEAN THE HOUSE.
Make a good sacramental Confession. The saints and the church teach us that the cleaner and more pure the soul the more abundant the graces in receiving Holy Communion. If you like, a dirty glass pane prevents the sun from entering the room fully. Likewise, a dirtied or sullied soul will block the full and powerful presence of the Eucharistic Lord in His entirety from inundating the soul!
It is doubtful that we would show up late for the last game in the World Series, or a graduation ceremony, or even an expensive and exquisite meal in a glamorous restaurant. Should we not then be early to welcome the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords into our hearts? What do you think? Coming late for Mass disturbs others, disturbs the priest and dampens one’s overall participation in the Holy Eucharist. Let us avoid cutting corners and selling God cheap!
Moses was commanded to take off his sandals before the burning bush that was a mere symbol of the Eucharistic Presence. Isaiah complained that he was impure in the midst of an impure people. His lips had to be purified by the burning coal. How much more reverence we should manifest in front of the Real Presence and the Eucharistic Lord. He is not a symbol but a Real Person! If a King merits the greatest reverence and respect, what about the King of the universe the Eucharistic Lord?
The Parish priest usually has his specific intentions in every Mass. This does not negate the fact that you cannot have your own private intentions. Three suggestion to help you to live the Mass more fully: 1) Offer Mass for a deceased person that they may continue to grow in love and service to the Lord. 2) Conversion of sinners. We all have in mind family members, relatives, friends, fellow-workers who seem to have forgotten about God or are angry at God and have for many different reasons drifted away from the Church. Offer your Holy Mass and Holy Communion so that they will return. These lost sheep may return to the Good Shepherd if you take the effort to pray for them and place them on the altar in Holy Mass. 3) Personal conversion. We all struggle with the flesh; we all struggle with our own demons; we all struggle with the seduction of the world, the flesh, and the Devil and his deception and many allurements. In Holy Communion why not beg the Lord Jesus that He would grant you the grace of a true HEART TRANSPLANT! Indeed you do receive the Body, and Blood of Jesus. Fervent and frequent Holy Communion is a mighty aid to a life of holiness!
In Mass we are not called to be passive observers as if it were a play, a show or an opera. On the contrary we are called to participate fully, actively, and consciously. We are called to listen attentively to the Word of God, respond to the Word, and to sing with all our hearts in praise and worship of the Lord. When silence is called for we enter into profound silence where we will meet the Lord. As the prophet reminds: “Be silent and know that I am the Lord.”
MARY’S HEART AND YOURS.
While approaching Holy Communion we should humbly ask the Blessed Virgin Mary our Lord’s Mother to pray for us to receive Jesus with the utmost purity, humility and burning love.
After Holy Communion we should spend some time in rendering thanks to Jesus for this greatest of all gifts—His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion. There is no greater gift! In a home visitation and a friendly meal, a guest who has even the least of manners will thank the hosts for having invited him. Should we not abound in thanksgiving to Jesus for humbling Himself to descend into our miserable interior home that we call our soul? Let us join our hearts, minds and voices with the Psalmist and acclaim: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” Indeed God rejoices in a grateful heart. Let us cultivate an attitude of gratitude! There are Post Communion Prayers in the Book of Common Prayer.
Given that you have encountered the greatest treasure in your life, the pearl of infinite value, you should be motivated to the fullest extent possible to bring Jesus to others and to bring others to Jesus! Take Our Lady as an example! After conceiving Jesus in her womb in the Annunciation, she went in haste to bring Jesus to her cousin Elizabeth who in her old age was with child. Mary hurried to bring Jesus to others. After you have received Jesus in Holy Communion and given Him a worthy thanksgiving, now it is time to become a fiery Apostle and to bring the Lord Jesus to others. Preach by your example but also by your word. Invite others to Church, to confession, to Mass and Holy Communion. Become a missionary! The harvest is rich but the laborers are few. You right now are called to work in the vineyard with the Lord; you are called to go fishing with the Lord and to save souls. One of the most efficacious tools to save souls is to help the wandering sheep, the stray Catholics, to come back to Church, make a good Sacramental Confession and then to receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen expresses it this way: “First come and then go!” First we should come and receive Jesus with great fervor, faith and love; then we go out to the whole world to bring this good news of salvation to every living being!
In conclusion, we should be overflowing with joy and gratitude for the most sublime gift of the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is truly and substantially the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus. There is no greater action we can possibly do while we live on earth than to receive the Eucharist worthily. Jesus’ promise for receiving Him frequently and worthily should fill all of us with immense joy. Jesus consoles us with these words: “I am the Bread of life. Whoever eats my Body and drinks my Blood will have everlasting life and I will raise Him up on the last day.” (Bread of Life discourse: Jn. 6: 22-71) Heaven is ours if we receive Jesus here on earth with faith and burning love!
Greetings to you, Good Shepherd Parish Family –
Rarely in my 9 years as your Rector have I taken space in Bulletin Announcements or in these “Friday Fanfares” to address what some might call “political issues”.
Seven years ago, I sent out a Pastoral Letter describing why it was both necessary and spiritually healthy for our Diocese to separate itself from the General Convention of the national Episcopal Church. The issues of doctrine as well as personal and corporate morality demanded a clear separation of the Diocese of Ft. Worth….and hence, Good Shepherd…from a national Church that had simply lost its way and its mind to the culture of sexual license and immorality.
Now, alas, it is necessary to bring to your attention a decision by the Supreme Court of this land that mirrors the moral corruption of the National Episcopal Church’s General Convention. At the risk of being misunderstood, I must speak out now, and reiterate why faithful Anglicans must reject the reasoning of the Supreme Court- even if it invites those who misunderstand the Gospel to accuse me of “hate speech”.
Christian citizens have a moral obligation to honor the Law of the Land. Romans 13:1-7 warns against those who rebel against lawful authority. However: Christians are NOT at liberty to accept as “Law” anything that is clearly in contradiction to God’s Revealed Word, the Holy Bible. The early Church stood emphatically against infanticide (the killing or exposing to death of new born babies), a practice which Roman Law did not forbid. To this very day, Christians with a Scripturally-formed conscience cannot promote either infanticide or abortion on demand…no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court may have ruled in “Roe vs. Wade” decades ago. “Abortion” is ‘the Law’. Christians, however, have a Higher Law. That higher law of LIFE prevents Christians from affirming abortion as “a woman’s choice”.
Just so, we Christians cannot support the extension of the term “right to marriage” for two men or two women in sexually active partnerships.
Today, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that “all states must license marriage between two people of the same sex” and “recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed “out-of-state.”
This is a grievous moral mistake on the part of the Supreme Court. Christians must pray that those responsible for this decision may repent and undo the moral damage they have done.
Holy Scripture explicitly forbids and condemns “same-sex”, “homosexual” practices in both Old and New Testaments. The list of cited passages is not long, because the Jewish and newly Christian communities did not need to be told over and over again about a sexual practice which was recognized as deplorably pagan and immoral. Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27 sufficiently cover God’s perspective on homosexuality. The Lord considers them degrading and unnatural passions.
The Body of Christ is to be a community of people recovering from an unfortunately long list of sinful attitudes and practices. We are more of a “hospital for the sick”, than a “museum of perfected saints”. Neither YOU nor I are given the power to judge the souls of anyone. That is God’s sole prerogative. If I am a gossip or a glutton, it is not your place to declare me “hell bound”, or drive me out of the Church. If you are an alcoholic or consumed with anger toward someone, it is not my place to berate you or pound you with “clobber verses” from the Bible.
Yet: neither you nor I can call “holy” what God calls “sin”. As a Diocese, as a parish, as families within the parish, we are called to agree with God’s Word and resist the 21st Century obsession with individual’s “rights”. No Christian has the “right” to act immorally. No follower of Jesus has permission to tell another person that his/her grave sin is now a newly discovered “right”.
As your Pastor, then, I strongly counsel you to both pray for those whose minds have been warped in the area of sexual morality, and to repent of whatever sexual sin we may be guilty. We do not want to stand with the Pharisee in the Temple and be self-satisfied that “we are not like other men”. The Truth is: we are very much like every other sinner. We have strong temptations to break God’s Word and Will…either in our confusion over what His Word calls us to do, or in simple defiance of His Word…because we want what we want. All are called to repent and believe in the Good News. But know this: The action of the Supreme Court today is neither Good News, nor “liberating”. It is profoundly wrong, and may encourage many people who are sexually enslaved to continue in their sin, falsely comforted with the illusion that “it is the Law”. No Law of man can transgress or remove the Law of God with impunity.
As grievous as this Day may be for the United States of America, our hope is never ultimately placed in our nation or its leaders. We are- in fact- sojourners in this world. We are citizens of Heaven. Our King is Jesus, and our Court is the very Throne Room of God, where Truth and Mercy embrace, and righteousness rules in every happy heart. Let this deep disappointment in our government serve to remind you that you can never truly trust in “man”. Work, pray, and rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Truth Incarnate. Be of good cheer. Jesus has overcome the World.
In Christ’s Love,
Fr. Stuart Smith