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God's Two Questions for Believers in the Episcopal Church

God's Two Questions for Believers in the Episcopal Church

by the Rev.Whitey Haugan

God in His wisdom has presented us with the two most important questions that have ever been asked, "Where are you?" and "Who do you say I am?"

The first was to Adam after he had disobeyed God in the Garden and found himself and his wife in a state of separation, aloneness, confusion and fear.

The second was to Peter so that Peter would recognize Jesus was God in the flesh. The first had to do with spiritual location--separation and loss of intimacy with God. The second had to do with spiritual relocation---recovery of relationship and intimacy with God. The Old Testament is built around the first question and the New Testament Gospel is built around the second question. Both questions are always there for every person in every generation. Both are prophetic questions calling for every heart to question where it is and where it needs to be.

Most especially are they questions for those who know Christ and find themselves in the Episcopal Church. The national leadership has chosen to doubt God's Word and substitute human thinking and experience to define faith and morals thus placing itself outside God's Word. This is what happened in Genesis and it's what's happening now. As a result those of us who have been recovered in Christ recognize the spiritual peril the leadership has placed us in. Gen 6:5 records that peril, "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." "Every, only , all" is descriptive of where we are.

Isaiah notes the subtlety that slowly erodes our spirit to where we see our leadership living out his prophetic words (5:20) "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." Isaiah sums up the condition, the location, of the people of God in 5:30 "...And if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds." And we hear the Word of God, "Where are you?"

Then an amazing thing happens to Isaiah. He sees the Lord, high and exalted, seated with the angels and his only response is to recognize his own sinfulness. "I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." It is this response God honors and sends an angel with a live coal to touch Isaiah's lips with the words, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." It is the recognition of God's presence and the need for repentance that God honors. It is here that God asks "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" Isaiah responds, "Here am I. Send me." Isaiah knows where he is and opens himself to do whatever God wants. God sends him to the people to tell them where they are and to keep on telling them "...until the cities lie ruined...until the houses are deserted...until the Lord has sent everyone far away...and the land is utterly forsaken (6:11-12).

Apply this prophecy to the Episcopal Church. People leaving, churches leaving, not in droves but in a here-and-there way over a period of time. Ask how many have left in the last several decades---hundreds of thousands, dioceses dwindling, bishops with their heads in the sand, falling back on the old secular methods of intimidation and legal manipulation, hoping to keep their lands, titles, money and power. Malachi recognized the depravity of clerical leadership when he wrote, "For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction---because he is a messenger of the Lord Almighty. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble...So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law (2:7-9). It is all written in the Scripture. "Where are you?" God is asking. This is where we are.

But more. God is calling believers, who know their heritage is a holy and faithful one, to be willing to be sent and to respond, "Here am I. Send me." It is not just bishops and clergy He is calling but everyone who bears the name of Jesus in their heart. It is the remnant faithful.

Now we come to the second question, "Who do you say I am?" Recovery time is at hand but how will God do it? It is all wrapped up in Jesus and whether or not we trust Him and who He claims to be. Thomas wasn't sure until Jesus told him to touch Him. When he did he said, "My Lord and my God." If Jesus is Lord and God, His Word is our authority. What does His authority say to us? There is a pattern He gives us which contains principles of action that depend totally on Him. If we really answered the first question of location we have said that repentance is our attitudinal position wherever and whenever and we are ready to do whatever He wants.

Acts 1 and 2 is a great place to go for that pattern and its principles because that is exactly where we are in relationship to what is happening in the Body of Christ right now. We are waiting for the promise of God to act in His Spirit for His people who have seen their heritage lying in waste and ruins. Let's unpack a few of its passages.

1:4-5 Jesus has been resurrected and for forty days He has been teaching about the Kingdom of God but Luke quotes only two things Jesus said so these must be of extreme importance. They must have been filled with great expectation about what it will look like and what it will do. They want it quickly. But Jesus says "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." What are the principles involved here?

First, Jerusalem is the heart community of the heartland, Israel, in which is the symbol of the presence of God's heart, the Temple. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem He wasn't weeping for the buildings or the geography. As the Son of Man He was weeping on behalf of the people to His Father. As the Son of God He was weeping for what would have to be done for their salvation. He was weeping for where they were and where He would have to go for them (Lk.13:34-35). We need to see the body of believing brothers and sisters as Jesus sees them, His Jerusalem. Our emotions are stirred in so many ways for the 'where.' Jerusalem is not bricks and mortar but the family. Jesus says that we are not leave our family. The institution may fall away but the Body is to stay together.

Principle one, "Don't leave Jerusalem." Keep your Jerusalem, the believers, together.

Second, when negative events overwhelm us we want immediate action. Again Jesus provides us with wisdom here. He is in charge and wants us to rely on Him and His action. He knows our human condition, instant gratification and right away. He knows we tend to leave God and define His Kingdom in our terms. That is what the national leadership has done and where are they? Sitting at the gates of hell. It's too warm there. So Jesus in His inimitable way says, "Wait..." Important word here. Wait on what God will do in His time and way. But "wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about." Don't run ahead of God. Remember Abraham and Isaac, Joshua on his way to Jericho, Gideon and the 300. They waited on God, listened for His instructions and He delivered for each and to each exactly what was necessary in their situation.

Principle two, stay in the Word for instruction and wait for the leading of the Spirit.

Third, waiting is important for us spiritually. We live in an instant gratification culture. The disciples were plagued by the same problem. They asked Jesus, vs.6, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" It sounds like they had it all figured out. It would be a visible kingdom and Israel would have supreme power to replace Rome. Its all about land, titles, property and financial security, just like the errant bishops. And is it going to be right now so we can enjoy it? Hmmm. Sound familiar? Jesus has already told them that the Kingdom of God is within, internal not external. It is a kingdom of the heart where Jesus rules and it is eternal. It has nothing to do with times or dates. So in our present situation where we fret over how soon the American church will be realigned and how long we should hold out and we begin to set God's schedule for Him Jesus says, "Don't leave Jerusalem...wait...it is not for you to know times and dates which the Father has set by His own authority..." Remember how we pray 'Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven?" The kingdom already exists and we are part of it. It is here already.

The principles that follow set the stage for understanding what we are to do while we are waiting.

Principle three, trust the Father's timing and His authority.

Fourth, there is a wonderful observation that is critical for us now, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience." It's important to see everything in spiritual context. Vs.8 You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. If the Kingdom is within then we will be given spiritual direction, insight and the kind of nudging that can only come through the Word as He leads. But it will be an activity of the Spirit in the heart and confirmed by the larger Body.

Principle four, rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in the heart and in the Body.

Fifth, a new lifestyle is given to us. It is a spiritual lifestyle. Vs.8 You will be my witnesses. Instead of the world's witness which is the exaltation and furthering of the self we are called to live a life that reflects the life of Jesus, His ideas, His actions, His teachings and His attitude. Especially His attitude, "I only do what my Father wills.. I and the Father are One." A witness of Jesus is one who does only what Jesus wills because with Him in our hearts we are one. He prayed for that on the night He was betrayed, that we would be one as He and the Father were one and that we and our brothers and sisters would be one as well.

Principle five. Jesus has called us to be witnesses to Him.

Sixth, the secular world is lost. Its goals and aspirations are from the evil one. They lead to separation from God, self-idolatry, false religion and eternal aloneness. People are lost in the secular society so, vs.8, You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Here Jerusalem is our family, our brothers and sisters in the Body. Judea is our community, where we are in our neighborhood, friends and social circles and also other churches where Jesus is only a name but not a reality. Samaria may be where our job is, the people we work with and the casual acquaintances we meet and across town. The ends of the earth are where we go on vacation, on the job or are transferred and move to. On each level we are called to be witnesses to Jesus.

Principle six. The Lord has given us a mission to be a witness to Him wherever we go and where He may lead us. It will be to say, "Here am I, send me."

Seventh, in the secular world there is no real home for the heart. No matter what club, church, company or organization we join there is no spiritual home for the heart. The Body of Christ is the only true family where the heart can be reconciled to God and to other hearts. The shadow of the Cross covers the Body and is the means by which we are saved and is the lifestyle of the Body. It is interesting that the word translated into our word witness is the Greek word marturion, martyr. One who lays down his life and lets the Lord live through him. We are witnesses together. Vs.14 They all joined together constantly in prayer. They were vulnerable to the work of the Spirit in each other's presence, each heart given to God together.

Principle seven, meet together constantly and in prayer.

So we have had seven principles that we are called to practice while we wait. But there is another leading in His Word and that is about the kind of structure that the Spirit led the early Body of Christ to form. It enabled the believers to measure their effectiveness to keep the Body strong and growing. This structure is an essential one for us to consider as we move forward.

One of the caveats we must face is that if we are simply changing names and places and not open to what God is leading us into we can miss the very thing we need to be a vital Body of Christ. If we are just interested in promoting Anglicanism and not what Anglicanism is all about we will miss the boat. A former Presiding Bishop is quoted as having said that his life regret as a clergyman was that he loved the church more than he did the Lord. We can be so enamored with Prayer Books, formal liturgies and heritage that we lose the essence of why they are there. And we have to ask the hard question. What is more important, being an Anglican or being a disciple of Jesus? Here we have the issue of Jesus' teaching about wineskins. Are we pouring new wine into old wineskins or are we willing to let Him shape the skins to hold His new wine as He pours it? In Genesis Adam and Eve fumbled around and tried to make clothes out of leaves. It was God who made clothes for them and we need to remember that. Jesus also gave us a cryptic statement in regard to what needs preserving, "Remember Lot's wife."

So how do we let the Lord dress the Body of Christ? The Lord has provided us a pattern in Acts 2:42-48. The Apostles were led to use have four basic spiritual materials to guide them as they clothed and formed the Body. If one of them is missing you don't have the Body of Christ. Especially now while are waiting for God to not only reform us but also re-form us, this passage is our assurance that we are on the right path.

Vs.42 They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

First, apostle's teaching. Here they did as they did with Jesus, studied the Word and His words. They also gave personal testimony as we saw in Peter's sermons and in Paul's travels. They were not only teachers but evangelists as well and lived their witness by example. Vs.43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

Second, fellowship. They operated in small groups, in house churches, prayer groups and shared their lives with one another practicing the gifts of the Spirit as they ministered to one another. Vs.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. It is this personal home prayer and sharing group that builds the heart of the Body. This is a very special need in most of our present churches. Too much reliance on Sunday and church services breeds an unhealthy institutionalism which is part of our present problem. When hearts are vulnerable to one another in the Spirit then the Body is strengthened.

Third, breaking of bread. This was the Lord's Supper in the first century. They remembered His Cross, His death and His Resurrection and listened to His Word. This was how they worshiped. Vs.46 Everyday they continued to meet together in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

Fourth, prayer. Prayer was multifaceted. There was personal and private prayer, shared prayer for one another as they met, extemporaneous prayer, intercessory prayer and liturgical prayer. Vs.47 And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

If these four elements are the measuring rod they will honor God's Word and His Spirit will be the source of incredible blessings. They will always guarantee a healthy Body of Christ. This is the structure by which the remnant of God builds His Kingdom in this world. It is the vehicle for His Spirit to work. It is the structure that will keep us honest as we wait for God to form and re-form us.

So the two questions are still there and we need to hear God's voice in them. "Where are you?" and "Who do you say I am?" We need to take stock of where we are as the Word gives us the its principles of analysis. Then when He speaks to us are we willing to say "Jesus is Lord, I trust Him and I will wait on Him." But I will also work on building the Body while His reforming is taking place. The summary statement may will be what the kingdom in this world is all about: Acts 4:32-35 All the believers were on in heart and mind. No one claimed any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

The Rev. Harold "Whitey" Haugan is a retired Episcopal cardinal rector living in Jacksonville, Florida and is a leading voice for orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church. He is the author of a book on marriage.

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