Monday, November 06, 2006

Among the 70%

My post of October 27, “Jawbone of an Ass” ( provoked more comments thus far than any other post on this blog. Those from Jess are especially cogent. With her permission, I have taken excerpts from the “comments” section and reproduced them below. They deserve to be shared and engaged in their own right. They pick up where my blogpost left off, and have helped me to sort through my own frequent reflections on the issue of how one can be faithful to God, considering the current boiling of the Episcopal Church.

Referring to my “Samson” example, Jess wrote:
There are other Biblical examples though. Maybe we’re not Samson, maybe we’re Jeremiah, weeping because he knows Jerusalem is, for his generation at least, doomed. He stays, he is brave, he tells the truth, but he can’t save her. Or we’re Lot, and our family is not enough in number for God to spare the wicked city. Or we’re part of the church in Revelation that God is about to spit out of His mouth for its lukewarmness.

I agree that the Church eternal is the Lord’s. And so are we. So in the end, our faithfulness will serve the Lord’s purposes, and we will be seen to have been on the winning side. But the Episcopal Church may yet fall. Many temporal divisions of the Church eternal have. I hope not. But it’s not as without precedent as all that.

Also, how do we know the ECUSA is the Lord’s church, when it’s not the whole Church (that is, the Church universal), and some “churches” sometimes become apostate? Going back to the Sodom and Gomorrah idea, what’s critical mass for apostasy (or righteousness)? If there aren’t “ten righteous” left, should we make like Lot and run for our lives?

I’m not sure all of the examples can all apply at the same time to the same people . . . though I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them applied at the same time to different people.

New material from me:
Many blogs and other sources of material that are around are rife with complaint, name-calling, or simple listings of “what’s wrong”—a list of the offenses. Although it is important to know what’s going on, I think that this approach is hardly helpful. It’s little more than a prod—or shove—toward discouragement. In this material, there’s very, very little about the greatness of God and the solid grounding of hope. Giving a solid grounding of hope, I think, is one of my gifts—to myself, my parishioners, and the wider Church.

Jess’s reflections are among the most thought-provoking and serious I have seen anywhere—they are Scriptural, faithful, and realistic, and invite real engagement. Blogs of other members of Blessed Sacrament also feature cogent reflections on this subject, including Sarah's ( and Jonathan's ( Even though my public comments (sermons, teachings, blog) are strong, I really do not think that I know it all, and I am blessed by people who help me stretch my mind and soul.

As Jess has pointed out, there are several Biblical models of leadership and direction when the people of God are under attack or in need of warning. Here is her list, plus some more that I have added as a result of the inspiration her comments gave me:

LOT was living in a city whose citizens were so rebellious to God that their city was slated for destruction. When warned to flee, Lot dragged his feet for so long that he had to be pushed out to save his life.

SAMSON fought his enemies with courage and effectiveness, even when hopelessly outnumbered.

GIDEON was hiding from the enemy when the Angel of the Lord appeared and called him a “mighty man of valor” who would deliver his people, even when he was just seeing to his own safety.

ELIJAH was discouraged and depressed (but not for too long) after fighting for the Lord alone and unsupported.

JEREMIAH prophesied to a heedless nation, repeatedly telling truth to those who refused to hear it. When the land finally came under judgment, he was taken by friends against his will into exile—but he bought a piece of land first to show that he was not giving up and to show that the Lord would restore his people in time.

EZEKIEL had one of the most chilling visions anywhere in the Bible. In sharp contrast to the magnificent vision of the Glory of God filling the Temple when it was consecrated by Solomon, Ezekiel saw the cloud of Glory depart from the Temple and leave it a secular hulk. But he also saw the purifying river that flowed from the precincts of that same Temple and swelled into a great spate that flowed into the Dead Sea and made it sweet.

DANIEL in exile maintained the tradition and became a visionary who inspired the people to return to their faith and practice it even among their enemies.

LAODICEA was the city whose people who were “spewed out” of the Lord’s mouth because they were so worldly that either faithfulness or enmity to God was preferable to him.

Of course, there is JESUS who sent his followers into the world like “lambs in the midst of wolves”, but also said that whenever someone refused to listen to them, they were to “shake off the dust” of the place from their feet and move on.

In the light of these Scriptural patterns, I discern questions in three areas:

1. What good am I doing those who differ from me? Is my witness effective or merely provocative? Is it good stewardship of my time and labor and commitment to be a voice among those who disagree with me? Even though they differ from one another, most Scriptural models lie in this area: Gideon, Samson, Elijah, Jeremiah. These are “sheep among wolves”.

2. How is the current situation affecting me and those who are with me? When does “perseverance” become toxic to me or others? When does one “give up”? The example of Lot cannot be ignored. This is where one “casts off the dust”. I think it is significant that Lot hesitated to leave, but “pushed out” he needed to be.

3. Finally, how will I know? Ezekiel and Laodicea provide some guidance, but there are no easy or clear answers. What lies in the future and what does faithfulness look like when one is swept along by forces beyond one’s control? Daniel shows how fidelity can be maintained and even flourish.

There are weaknesses and temptations in every course that is before us. If it were easy to know what to do, there would not be controversy in which dedicated Christians striving for fidelity take different courses of action.

In the meantime, powerful and fantastic things are happening in the Anglican world. As Bishop Ackerman said when he visited Blessed Sacrament last April, the Anglican Communion is in wonderful shape! It is sad, unfortunate, and trying that we live in a part of it where it is not so. We must remember that our Church is more than 75,000,000 strong, at least 70% of which is healthy and godly and amazing and faithful and fruitful. Blessed Sacrament is a part of that 70%, and I intend to remain a part of that Anglican Church.

For me, then, the question is this: what if the Episcopal Church is removed from the Anglican Communion? Should that happen, perhaps that will be the time when the wonderful people of Blessed Sacrament will come together as a body to seek the Lord’s will. We know that there are many, many Episcopalians who will be answering that same question. Whatever we discern, I am sure that the direction we take will be faithful and ... Scriptural.

1 comment:

Hannah Jolene said...

You know what else..."If it were easy to know what to do"...we wouldn't have to seek God for wisdom and guidance. When we think we know what to do, we typically leave God out of the picture. But when knowledge is stripped from us, or things are opaque to us, we are urged to seek God for wisdom and become dependent on Him rather than on our own selves.