By the Spirit and wine, God is keeping the Anglican party going, and I am glad of it.
This has been a hard week for many Anglicans. As I read the statement from Primates 2016 announcing measures against the US Episcopal Church, my heart sank. I have several friends who are Episcopalians, and I was worried about their reaction, as much as how LGBT people might be receiving the news. Pretty soon I was on facebook, asking them how things were looking from their end… and I was amazed by the grace and fervent trust in the goodness of God that their responses displayed. There was disappointment, yes, and hurt, yes… but an overriding sense that they were followers of Jesus Christ in the Anglican way before the accouncement, and followers of Jesus Christ in the Anglican way they remained.
Daily, I pray Your will be done, Your kingdom come, but I am regularly amazed by the trust that many of my brothers and sisters have in the power of God to do just that. So often we feel alone as Christians, angry that the world and the Church do not seem to reflect God’s kingdom, and powerless to change that.
This morning, as I was waiting to go to Church, I read this in a sermon of Charles Spurgeon:
Try a little while; we shall not always labour in vain, or spend our strength for naught. A day is coming, and now is, when every minister of Christ shall speak with unction, when all the servants of God shall preach with power, adn when colossal systems of heathenism shall be scattered to the winds. The shout shall be heard, “Alleluia! Alleluia! the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.” For that day do I look; it is to the bright horizon of that second coming that I turn my eyes. My anxious expectation is, that the sweet Sun of righteousness will arise with healing beneath His wings, that the opprest shall be righted, that despotisms shall be cut down, that liberty shall be established, that peace shall be mad lasting, and that the glorious liberty of the gospel shall be extended throughout the known world. Christian! if thou art in a night, think of the morrow; cheer up thy heart with the thought of the coming of thy Lord.
What a remarkable call to trust in God’s power to bring about His own Kingdom; to look forward to the day when God’s kingdom of justice and healing and love will be established, not by us but by God, in the Church and the world. The presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church released a video that acknowledged the shock felt by many, but reminded the faithful time and time again that we are part of the Jesus movement. “And so we must claim that high calling,” he said, “the high calling of love and faith, love even those with whom we disagree… and then continue, and that we will do.” He was calling those who feel despondent, hopeless and left behind, to remember why they are Christians, and why they are Anglicans, and to continue in love and faith, living out their vocation in eager expectation for the coming of God’s kingdom.
But he added something else as well. He said we must “continue, and that we will do… and we will do it together.” The readings this morning at Mass were 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (on Spiritual Gifts) and John 2:1-11 (the Wedding at Cana). I have no doubt that lots and lots of sermons were preached up and down the country on the power of Spiritual Gifts… but it strikes me that Paul wasn’t so much interested in the Spiritual Gifts for themselves when he wrote to the Corinthians.
The Spiritual Gifts are a focus for unity. In the preceeding passage Paul talks about how people should receive the Eucharist: without factions based on wealth (11:17-22), with a humility that acknowledges one’s own faults (11:23-32) and waiting until all in the Church are gathered to receive (11:33-34). Then he talks about spiritual gifts, for “all these are activated by one and the same Spirit” who gives his gifts of union and unity to all: “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews of Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (12:13).
The Anglican Communion, like the collected Church of God, “does not consist of one member but of many” (12:14), and each of us is called to remember that each of us is “the body of Christ and individually members of it” (12:27). For we are included not by our agreements, or allegiances, or churchmanship, or theology… but by the Spirit. And we cannot be excluded by our disagreements or identities or affiliations or theology… for our union with Christ is not effected by earthly institutions… but by the Spirit.
Lots of sermons will also have been preached on the Wedding at Cana as a sign of God’s abundant love. And that it is. But it also strikes me that, when the wine ran out, the party could have dissipated: in my experience, when the booze stops flowing, everyone falls asleep and people begin to go home.
When Jesus turned the water into wine, he kept the party going. He kept the community together. And he kept them joyful.
And as I received the wine from the altar this morning in Church, I remembered again that it is by this wine that Christ keeps His Church going. It is by this wine that He keeps His Church together. And it is by this wine that He keeps His Church joyful.
In the power of the Spirit and in Union with Christ, I thank the Father for keeping this party going.