January 15, 2012 Leave a comment
Just look at what Tim Tebow did to my blog stats:
He’s a very popular person. As is Fr John Corapi. A lot of people are getting very worked up now that he has completely dropped off the radar.
I’m also glad to see my Bishop’s post: The Traditional Anglican Communion – Christians on the move! is being well received and read.
So thanks for stopping by.
It makes all the blogging worthwhile!
[The lessons are here]
Something that has been particularly difficult for me in my time of ministry here at Christ Church is seeing people, and perhaps specifically (though not exclusively) our young people or Confirmandi leaving the Church. After having invested in them, for that is what they are, an investment in the future of our Parish, spent hours together pondering the Scriptures, teaching, explaining and making sure that they have and are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, for I always tell them that that is really the determining factor in my mind when it comes to readiness for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, only then to have to watch them go.
It is a statistical reality that the majority of our young people, who undergo Confirmation, even though at the time they fervently promise that they will never leave Jesus or His Church, eventually do. And it hurts to see them go. Whenever I look and see a parent or a sponsor sitting in the pews, perpetually without their young one by their side, I am reminded of this sad reality. Again, the same applies when adults choose to up and leave.
When the decision is made to abandon the Church – or this Church specifically – it is invariably to one of two places:
Now I know that a lot of people tell me that the kids (or friends) who have been here, have moved on to or are visiting at a more ‘modern’ Church elsewhere. I know too that this is often just nothing more than an excuse, or even a conscience salving statement, and the sore reality is that those same people are nowhere: They go not to Church frequently nor are they as zealous as they once were for Jesus, and are actually as good off as those making the first choice which is to stay at home, those who in effect have given up on Jesus and His Church.
The point I want to make is that though it is often hard to see those you have loved, nurtured, catechised and walked with in the faith leave, it is far better to see them walk to another place where Jesus is honoured, loved and served, than to see them walk off into the selfish nothingness of: ‘Jesus is no longer important enough for me to give Him even a second thought, let alone drag myself off to worship Him in community for a little over an hour once a week on a Sunday morn. Far more important to me is sleeping in late after partying it up or a night out with the pals on Saturday. It is after all my life and my choice…’ Which indeed it is, I suppose, but I’m often soberly reminded of the old adage:
‘You may never know Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.’
I say soberly, because I have had to stand at the funerals of young people and tell those weeping bitterly that it is essential for us to place our trust in Jesus during this terrible time, and yet I find myself privately doubting as to whether the corpse lying in the wooden coffin below died in a state of grace or not.
Leaving the Church and staying at home is nothing new; Christians have been doing it since the inception of Christianity. It is easy to do, but know that when you walk out on Jesus and His people, you are walking out on yourself.
So what of those who move off to other Churches? Well in today’s Gospel we find two of John’s disciples leaving him and following Jesus. John the Baptist was a well-known preacher of the day. He attracted many a follower and large crowds came to see and listen to him and his message. People were moved and challenged by the truth of his words: Repent and be baptised for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). And they responded, by the hundreds.
It is not hard to imagine that sort of ‘successful ministry’, which is what they probably would call it today, going to one’s head. But not John… He knew that his main role was to point people to the coming Saviour (Luke 3:15-17). And so when Jesus comes, and of his disciples choose to follow ‘the one who c[a]me after’ (John 1:27), he has no problem. There’s no accusation of ‘sheep-stealing’ or ‘poaching’.
A lot of people ask the question: Why did these disciples leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus? The truth be told, John had been preparing them for Jesus’ coming all along. ‘The next day… When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35). One of them was Andrew and the other, probably John, the son of Zebedee and the author of this Gospel; men who would go on to dedicate their lives to Jesus as Apostles (Matthew 4:18-22). It’s also at this point that the ministry of John the Baptist, which gets us going in the Gospels, kind of fads into the background and the focus and attention of the writers is fixed on Jesus.
Letting go, for John the Baptist, was a good thing. He was not seeking glory, or accolades or renown, he wanted to show people Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the One who would bring about salvation.
And so it come about that Jesus speaks, for the very first time in the Gospel: ‘What do you want’? It’s a challenging question. Do allow me to repeat His question, as if He was asking you, here, today: ‘What do you want’? What do you want from Jesus? Why are you here? Why are you following Him?
You know, coming to Church, saying you’re a Christian or a follower of Jesus, isn’t good enough; we must be following Him for the right reasons. And therein is the challenge; a challenge that many simply find too hard: It is not about us, or about what we can get out of it, it’s about Jesus.
We need to get over ourselves.
The words in an e-mail sent to me during this past week put it well into perspective (and they are from someone who is going through a really tough time):
‘… why can’t we love Christ for him without expecting anything in return and to know that his death and resurrection cleanses, heals, forgives and saves us from hell?’
If you are following Jesus or coming to Church today for anything but seeking and being wholly satisfied by Christ’s glory in and out of a gratitude for the joy of salvation found in Him, then you’re not following or coming for the right reasons. To follow Christ for any of our own reasons or purposes is the same as expecting Christ to follow us. And He will not. And because He will not, your own expectations will end up disappointing you, disillusionment will grow thick and fast, and the exit at the back of the Church will be your destiny.
And like those who walked here before, who sat next to you occasionally in the pews, claiming to know Jesus, to love and serve Him and continue so to do no matter what, and who are now here no more, you will end up lying in your beds at home on a Sunday morning wonder what to do, how best to fulfil your own particular selfish desires, never asking or seeking the Saviour.
There was a lady all the way from Hermanus who visited here last week, and I was delighted to hear her say to me after Mass: ‘It is wonderful to be able to worship for a change with younger people and families.’ See she is from an established Church, but she tells me that only the elderly are left. How very, very sad. But at the same time, I remember thinking: We should have so many more ‘younger’ people here… And where are they, and what are they doing?
How little do people realise that unless they make Christ the very centre of their lives, make Him and Him alone to be what it is all about, their lives will be lived devoid of Him, failure after failure, always seeking yet never finding, and facing a gloomy end without even a shred of hope. Don’t live your life that way. Don’t let your children or their children live their lives that way. While it is still time, repent, encourage others to do the same, and turn to Jesus. And when He asks the question, and ask He will, ‘What do you want’? Tell Him: ‘You. It’s You, You are all I want’. And Jesus, will never fail nor will He disappoint you. Only He is worthy of the throne of your heart.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The Tebow inspired John 3:16 ad that aired during the Boncos game:
Focus on the Family, the evangelical organization based in Denver that featured Tim Tebow and his mother in a Super Bowl ad in 2010, purchased a spot during the second quarter of Saturday night’s game between the New England Patriots and Tebow’s Denver Broncos on CBS featuring children reading the Bible verse John 3:16…
The Denver Post has comments from the group on the spot on its website…
And why not?
January 15, 2012 2 Comments
In the Daily Mail:
A controversial gay dean has threatened to take the Church of England to court after he was blocked from becoming a bishop.
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, has instructed an eminent employment lawyer to complain to Church officials after being rejected for the role of Bishop of Southwark.
Sources say the dean, one of the most contentious figures in the Church, believes he could sue officials under the Equality Act 2010, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. Such a case could create a damaging new rift within the CoE…
Dr John has instructed Alison Downie, partner and head of employment at London lawyers Goodman Derrick, to write to the Commission to suggest it risks breaching gay equality laws if it is blocking the dean over his homosexuality…
Dr John suggested he would drop his legal threat if he felt he would not be ruled out for future posts…
A Church spokesman also refused to comment…
I’ll comment: The Bible condemns homosexual behaviour. The Church runs on Biblical principles. Are they now to be forced to directly ignore or contradict God’s holy laws by appointing ‘gay’ shepherds? And here is a man who wants to be a Bishop, but will not submit to God’s law and instead turns to secular man-made laws to make his case. That in itself shows his character and effectively should disqualify him from any position within the Church.