Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Bishop Eric Menees

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

If last Sunday was known as Good Shepherd Sunday, perhaps this Sunday should be known as The Unique Way Sunday. This Sunday's collect captures the fact that Jesus is the unique and ONLY way to God the Father and eternal life with Him. This is the good news of Jesus Christ - that we have a way to the Father. All other religions require their practitioners to work hard and lift themselves up to God. Christianity proclaims that, “...God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that all who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It is not that we have to do anything to receive Christ's love, but rather that we must simply accept it; simply say yes; simply believe in Him who believed in you before you ever believed in Him.

That being the case, what a tragedy it is when we hold back the full truth of the gospel. I'll never forget watching the very moving funeral service of President Gerald Ford on TV on January 3, 2007. The service in the National Cathedral was a state event, with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance befitting the funeral services for the 38th President of the United States. The liturgy was flawless, and the music was majestic. How sad, therefore, when Fr. Robert Certain climbed into the towering pulpit to preach the funeral sermon but left off the final phrase of John 14:6 - "I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME." With literally millions of people watching the service live on TV, Fr. Certain had the opportunity to offer the hope of Christ to a lost and hurting world, but fell short.

When asked about it later, he stated that he wanted to focus on President Ford as the healer of the nation; that to speak of Christ as the unique way to salvation would be divisive. However, I would argue that President Ford could only have been a healer because he followed the great healer - Jesus Christ!

Fr. Certain expressed a fear that far too many Christians in the West have come to believe as true - that the uniqueness of Jesus as the only way to the Father is, "exclusive and intolerant." The opposite is true. Because Jesus died for all who would put their faith and trust in him, it is not dependent upon the person’s individual ethnicity, culture, language, education, economic status, etc., etc.  When we say, "Well, people in the East are Hindu and Buddhist, people in the Middle East are Muslim,” etc., we are truly being exclusivist - saying that we are going to keep the truth of the gospel to ourselves in the wealthy, educated West.

What this collect proclaims is that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Equally the petition to God is that we will so embody that Truth and follow in that Way, that not only will we have the fruit of that relationship - eternal life with Jesus - but that we will share that Truth with all who will listen.

Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+

No comments: