Sunday, September 5, 2010

Discipleship in perspective

This has been a depressing summer here in California for us Continuing Anglicans, and not just because of the abnormally cool summer. At least one parish has given up its court fight (to save its sanctuary) rather than spend more money on lawyers, and another conservative parish has been wracked by artificial controversy intended to tear the parish from its roots.

At times I find that following the Schism II news — whether from friends or via websites — drains all my energies from thinking about other church activities, whether it be researching hymns, reading the Bible, inspirational books, or anything else that I might productively do.

And then there was this morning’s (RCL) Gospel reading, which reads in part:
[Jesus said] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”
Tied to this reading, the sermon recounted the autobiography of Lucette, a French girl who was raised by atheists Communists who hated the church with passion: when she committed her life to Christ, her father struck her and her parents disowned her. The memoir, A Memory for Wonders, talks about how Veronica Namoyo Le Goulard became a Clare nun in Algeria and eventually founded two monasteries in North Africa.

The moral of the story: no price is too high to pay for our Christian beliefs.

It would be easy to be cynical about the messenger: the speaker was a somewhat conservative Episcopal priest who either sees nothing wrong with the current direction of TEC or is unwilling to sacrifice his appointment or his pension or his status to join the Continuing Anglicans.

But then that’s the real point. Who benefits by cynicism over clerical hypocrisy, petty infighting among lay leaders, gossiping, court fights, misrepresentation of one’s true theological beliefs? It’s not the faithful, the seekers or Christ’s Church: it’s those that seek to destroy the Church, which is the work of the Devil himself.

Let’s put things into perspective. Yes, we have lost a few buildings, plaques, organs and books. Yes, we have to meet in industrial parks, do church-in-a-box, or sublet from sympathetic established churches.

But we are not going to lose our lives if we follow Christ, or even (except in unusual cases) our livelihoods. This is not Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan or any of the dozens of other countries where Christians are openly persecuted.

It’s past time to move past being anti-revisionist, anti-heretic, anti-apostasy. The people who have walked away from TEC and their buildings had the right idea: spend the time and money on saving souls — particularly inculcating the faith in the next generation — just as we were told to do almost 2000 years ago.

So yes, we do need to understand our mistakes — whether theological, personal or tactical. As cultural Catholic George Santayana said a century ago, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But our own salvation, and that of the generations to come, depends on how we use that learning to be better disciples of Christ.

No comments: