They called the pastor to set up a meeting with the intent of asking him to baptize their newborn son. They were not members of the parish but his parents were members of a sister parish so he thought the pastor would be amiable to their request. The pastor inquired of the two parents regarding their faith and they assured him that they were Christians and had every intention of attending the parish in the future. The vows taken at the baptismal service were reviewed and a date for the baptism was set. Extended family was invited and the baptism was fit within a Holy Communion service with all going smoothly until toward the end of the service, before the last hymn, a grandfather of the newly baptized child had a heart attack collapsing in his pew. An ambulance was called while nurses in the congregation attended to the man. He survived the heart attack but it created quite a stir in the congregation as it was the first time a service ended abruptly. Oh, and they never saw the family again.
The Church both locally and universally is the bride of Christ. She is to be preparing for her groom by walking in the good works God has prepared for her. She is to be beautiful as she basks in the love of her groom. But there are those within the Church who will use and even abuse the bride of Christ. People use her to relieve guilt they have for their sins. They do this by attending church services and following the liturgy of the Church while never engaging other members or submitting to its leadership. They use the Church by asking it to sanction their big events in life such as marriages, baptisms, and funerals for loved ones without offering any service to the church or a regular tithe. People use the Church when it fits into their schedules and when it offers what they like in music and programs, especially youth programs while never sacrificially giving of their time and attention to what the parish is preaching and teaching.
Professing Christians also abuse the Church. They abuse her by not giving their tithes and offerings and thus not providing for the basic needs of the local parish. They abuse her by speaking poorly about parish leadership and being critical about decisions made by its vestry. They abuse the bride of Christ by neglecting her need to love and be loved.
If you have ever used or abused the Church, repent. A parish is there for you to serve not to be served. It is there is for you to give to not be given to. It is there for you to submit to not to submit to you. Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand for Jesus is coming for his bride.
Thursday, January 24, 2019
A strong desire within most women is the perceived need for a “best friend”. The Bible encourages friendship in general, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” Proverbs 18:24. Deep friendships are able to withstand personal rebukes “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses“ Proverbs 27:6. But the Bible does not have the category of “best friend”. I submit that it does not have such a category because a “best friend” does not exist.
My wife has said that I am her “best friend” but I am not and when I have pressed her on it she agrees with me. If a “best friend” existed the person to fill such a position would need to feel empathy for another person in all ways and I cannot do that for my wife. She has experiences that only women can have (carrying and birthing children, monthly cycles, submitting to a husband, etc.). I can love her, respect her and support her but it is only women who can
empathize with one another. But I just said the category of “best friend” doesn’t exist so that means that even a woman cannot be a “best friend” for another woman, if I am correct. That’s right and it is right because even though a woman can have greater empathy for another woman over that which a man can have, no person can, with satisfaction, fully empathize with another person. Our personalities differences, our education differences, our intelligence differences and our mental and physical health differences impede our ability to fully identify with another person’s experiences. We are, as the Bible says, “under the sun” and thus unable to know as only God can know. This leads to an obvious answer which is that Jesus should be the best friend of every Christian. But I am not going to fully agree. Yes, Jesus can identify with us better than any person can. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us can hear our cries and catch our tears. But, we also “see through the glass dimly”. We have not yet seen Jesus face to face. This means that we are not fully whole and that weakens our confidence in believing and experiencing Jesus as our best friend. What women and men who feel the need for a “best friend” need to do is recognize and then confess that feeling the need for a “best friend” is a call to die to self. Times we feel the need for a “best friend” are opportunities to bring such feelings under the authority of the Holy Spirit and to accept that what is presently possessed in this life is sufficient for the moment.
I realize that my argument that the category of “best friend” doesn’t exist relies on you accepting the definition of “best friend” to be a person who fully empathizes with another person. If you have a different definition you may dismiss my conclusion regarding the existence of a “best friend” but please don’t dismiss the final point which is to die to self when such a desire for a best friend rises within.