Monday, April 13, 2015

Not Quite But From a Similar Cloth

We’re In It Together
Delivered Sunday April 12, 2015
 Ephesians 4:1-6 -   
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 
When I was a teenager my Dad had a small commercial subcontracting business where he installed, among other things, rolling steel doors. You may be familiar with these doors. They are steel slats interlaced together to form a curtain. The curtain fits between two channels on either side of the opening and rolls up on a large spool at the top. Well, I helped him install a bunch of these doors, everything from 2 foot by 2 foot counter shutters to 40 foot by 30 foot monsters that two railroad boxcars could pass through side by side. As he got older he got away from it and retired but a few years later, not long after Joanne and I married I decided to restart the business.

After being in business for a couple of years I got a contract to install one of these rolling steel doors on a union job site. This meant I had to go to the local steel workers union hall and ask the union president for a temporary permit to do the job. It was either that or join the union which had no real benefit for me. Now, let me give a little background here. When Pop was still running the business he also, on occasion would have to do the same. You see, installing one of these steel doors was a bit technical and not everyone was qualified to tackle the job which left the union president with no one in his organization able to do it. Knowing this, and decidedly not a union man, Pop would go round and round with the president. I was never privy to conversations but, according to the stories I heard, the president would tell Pop he had to join the union and Pop would tell him what he could do with his union. The president would threaten to not give him a permit so Pop would tell him to have one of his own members do it which would irritate the president no end and would lead to prolonged arguments with the eventual and final result being Pop would leave - with his permit.

Now it was my turn. Like I said, I had heard the stories but never really knew how accurate they were. We can all tend to embellish now and then and Pop was certainly no exception. As I went in to the president’s office, and this was a pretty stereotypical union boss – not quite Tony Soprano but of a similar cloth. There were photos of him shaking hands with high ranking politicians on the walls and other trophies attesting to his connections on his desk.
I really didn’t know what to expect. It had been quite a while since Pop had visited and fought his battles. I went to his office but before I could say anything, he began a tirade about the treatment he got from my Dad and how Pop should have joined the union but had refused, what a hard time he had given him about not having qualified members and how I was probably just like him. Within
20 seconds I realized that nothing had changed. The union still had no members qualified to do what Pop had qualified me to do and the president had no choice but to give me the permit.

I also realized that all the stories Pop had told about his encounters with this man were true. Although it had been a little while since Pop had passed away, I don’t know that was ever more proud of my old man than at that moment. It was true. He had stood toe to toe with this powerful union boss and put him in his place.
 And I was reaping the benefits from it. I didn’t have to fight or argue. Pop had already defeated this foe. He had fought and won the battle and I was benefiting from it. While the president continued to rail I held my peace and thanked my Dad for who he was, for giving me a skill that not everyone could do and also for the path he had cut for me in that union president’s office. I was smiling on the inside and trying hard not to smile on the outside. All I had to do was hold my ground, hold my peace, be patient and wait for the inevitable work permit to come my way. The hard work had already been done for me.
Even though Pop had passed on, he was still there with me, not only in spirit but in what he had accomplished beforehand. He and I were in it together - and you and I are also in it together - this thing known as the Church.
When I think about the Church, I tend to think about this fellowship, the unity and the love we share and enjoy here at Good Shepherd but Paul is reminding the Ephesians, and us, that the Church is much larger than our local body. He says there is one body, one Spirit, one baptism, one Lord and Father, one faith.
When we look around at the Church today we don’t necessarily see one Body but seemingly a divided body. There are currently approximately 43,000 Christian denominations in the world – and growing.
So, how can Paul say that there is one body when there appears to be thousands of different expressions of that body?? I’m not going to talk about that today. Instead, I’m going to talk about our Anglican expression of the Body.
Joanne and I came to the Anglican Church from the independent Charismatic Church where we met and married. As a result, we didn’t really see the need for or the purpose of Church traditions – though in reality, every church I’ve ever attended created its own traditions.
Over all, the Independent/Charismatic movement is a wonderful expression of the Church. We learned a lot, grew a lot and made lots of good friends. At the same time, through the years we also experienced a few interesting challenges and interesting personalities. After returning from the mission field we visited several churches in the area but none of them seemed to scratch our itch. We had some friends that had supported us on the mission field that had become members of a local Episcopal Church. They invited us to join them so we decided to give organized religion a try and see if it offered something more than the disorganized religion we were accustomed to.
This Episcopal/Anglican church was Spirit filled and had been very instrumental in the local charismatic renewal in Jacksonville so the transition was a little easier. The rector loved God and loved the Anglican Church and its traditions.
I have to admit that for the first several months I was suspicious of what was going on in the service and particularly the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. Why this procession, these silly dresses, these same refrains we sing every Sunday (Praise God from whom all blessings flow, etc)?
 Now, I was, and am a saved by grace through faith Christian so I didn’t really see the purpose or the value in the pageant, but, at the same time there was something about it that attracted me.
 I listened carefully to the creeds and to the prayers of the priest, especially as he blessed the elements, analyzing in my mind all that I saw and heard to be sure it agreed with what I understood to be Biblical – and it did.
 But, it was in the new comers’ class taught by the rector that I got my first glimpse of understanding of the Eucharistic pageant and its significance.
 In one of the classes, Father Charles began talking about the Apostles’ Creed, or Baptism Creed as it is often referred to. I had listened to it enough to know that I agreed with it but I did not know anything about it or its source. When I learned that the Apostles’ Creed, or some form of it had been in use by the Church since almost the very beginning 2000 years ago, something clicked for me. I was suddenly connected, not only to Christ but also to the saints throughout the ages. I began to get a revelation of the Church beyond the local body, beyond my region and even beyond the current world.
 I began to think about the apostles and their disciples 2000 years ago, the thousands and millions and even billions of Christians in every corner of the globe through every age and event of history that had passed during those 2000 years. I began to think of all the Christian heroes and missionaries, the martyrs and saints, the Popes and the reformers, the mystics and theologians and how the Church has been attacked in every age by detractors and heretics, despots, politicians and outright haters and how She has overcome every single one and still stands strong. And, by God’s grace She will continue to stand strong long after the current challenges She faces have become forgotten bylines of history.
 I wasn’t alone. They were there with me, as I confessed the creed with my fellow church members and especially at the rail where we receive the bread and wine of the Eucharist. I was connected
 I didn’t know, and still don’t know every detail of the traditions behind every aspect of the pageant. I know that some are ancient, like the creeds, and that some are more modern like the surplices worn by the choir and others. But, the creeds, the Eucharist, the pageant, the surplices and the refrains all played a part in connecting me, here and now to the Church Universal, the Church Eternal. We are one body, united by one Lord, Jesus Christ.    
 As Anglicans we take the Eucharist pretty seriously but, in reality, it is not something we have to do. Instead, it is something we get to do. It is central to the pageant and worship service and illustrates the centrality of Christ and His sacrifice in our lives.
 There is no rule that the Eucharist has to look a certain way or that the players in the passion play must dress a certain way. But, you will notice that Fr Shay is leading us through all of the essentials of the pageant with nothing left out – praise, Word, confession of sin, prayer, proclamation, affirmation of faith and the Eucharist just as it has been practiced for 2000 years by billions of believers like you and me.
 At the same time, let’s be clear about this. Participating in the Eucharist, in and of itself is not going to save you or keep you saved. There is no magic in it. Although, if understood for what it is and practiced in faith it is a huge encouragement and help in bringing us to Christ and keeping us there. It is a pageant, a passion play if you will, to be a profound reminder, a mysterious touch point of faith that is deeply representative of the completed work of Christ in our lives through faith. It connects us, not only to Christ but also to our fellow travelers in the local body where we attend, to the billions of Christians around the world today, the billions of Christians that have gone before us and the billions of Christians that, God willing are yet to come.
 Just as I was standing on my Father’s shoulders when I went before that union president, benefiting from his work, so also we stand on the shoulders of the apostles, prophets, saints, missionaries, theologians and martyrs that have gone before us. They have given us a rich heritage to follow. They have laid a solid foundation for us. They have defeated more enemies than we know. They have cut a path for us. And, the Eucharist pageant is a powerful reminder of what they have done on our behalf and points us to the source of our salvation upon which we stand.  It connects us with our Savior. It is life and encouragement and food for our very soul. It also connects us to those around us, to those who have gone before us and to those who come behind us.
We are not alone. We are a vast army. We are in this together.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 



  1. Nice to see this here! Good job, Rogelio!

  2. Well said! So I was reading my physics text yesterday and there was a description of an experiment by Michael Faraday and I got to thinking,hey maybe it would be nice to do the same one day. Then I had an aha! Participating in the traditional rituals, using all the senses, the body, in real time, is like physics lab vs. physics lecture. Yeah, you can read it in a book but actually doing the labs gives one knowledge at a different level.

    Now, having said that, we're still not attending a church. But I see the value.

    1. Great observation, John. I hadn't really considered that application but it works well. Kind of like how one can never learn to actually ride the bicycle until he gets on it and apply what he's seen others doing.

  3. Thank you Joan and Julie, for your kind comments. You know, if you keep feeding me compliments, I'm going to be tempted to keep writing. Be forewarned.

  4. Well said, Rogelio!
    There are so many connections to be seen among different denominations, churches and individual members.
    We all strive (or should) to be like Christ, or Christ-like, which is what Christian means.
    And all Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

    Sometimes it's easy to see our differences, but it should be easier to see what connects us, and when we connect in His Spirit of peace, love, truth, etc., it fosters brotherhood and sisterhood, bringing us closer.