Saturday, December 19, 2009

Priorities

One of the less exciting things about being a bishop is that one has to deal with ecclesastical politics. Now I freely confess that there was a time in my life when Church politics had their appeal, but when I saw what they could do in terms of destroyed ministries and shattered churches I decided that the best policy was to watch, but not get involved. I have far more important things to do.

St Paul wrote, "Woe to me, if I preach not the Gospel!" and he wrote that because he felt impelled to use the whole of his wit and energy to proclaim the saving good news of Jesus Christ. St Paul had walked away from fame and renown to become a preacher of the sect of the Nazarenes, a proclaimer of the Way, as Christianity was then called. Why? Because he knew it to be the truth. That should give us a clue as to what we should be about. Our priority is to preach the Gospel.

So far as I am concerned that preaching of the Gospel has to include some fairly unfashionable statements.

Firstly, that human beings are very far gone from their original righteousness.

Secondly, that we are called by God to repent of our sins and accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

Thirdly, that Christ has died that "all those who believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Fourthly, that God's grace, not our works, make us "right" before Him and bring us to eternal life.

Fifthly, that those truly called will persevere in the Faith.

I have never been able to determine for myself whether I believe those propositions in a Calvinist or an Arminian sense, but I am very aware of the fact that I have been called and baptized, and am therefore participating in the process that will, by God's grace, bring me to eternal salvation. In that journey I am sustained by God's Word, the Sacraments, and Prayer, and give evidence of my faith by good works. I am also called, as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, to proclaim that good news - as is every other bishop, priest or deacon of the Church.

From my anle, one of the problems with the Church today is that we are not clear enough about sin being the problem and Christ being the answer. We waffle. Why? I do not know. Perhaps that we are afraid of offending people? Well, if we are, then God is offended at us. St Paul was not afraid of offending people with the truth, so let us say with him,

"Woe to me, if I preach not the Gospel."