Thursday, October 3, 2013

Instructions to the Church # I

"Let Brotherly Love Continue."

Bishop Eric Menees

1 “Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life  a free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said,“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and  imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not “be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace,  not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.” (Hebrews 13:1-9 ESV)

Over the next eight weeks, I would like to begin to explore this familiar scripture from the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:1-9). In these nine verses, the author of this letter gives profound and practical advice to the church - advice that is as good today as it was in the first century, when this was written.

The author of the epistle does not identify himself, though we do know he was friends with Timothy (13:23) and that the church he's writing to had suffered persecution, including the confiscation of property and imprisonment (10:32-34). Scholars also believe that this church was made up of Jewish Christians who were tempted to leave the life of Grace and return to the old familiar life under the law of Moses. Hebrews speaks to the church of the first century and of the twenty-first century, with principles that apply directly to the Diocese of San Joaquin.

"Let brotherly love continue" (vs. 1) The church of the first century was marked by "brotherly love" (φιλαδελφίᾳ (philadelphia). The church of the twenty-first century should also be marked by brotherly love - the kind of love that gives without expectation of anything in return. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you,  that you love one another:  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

That brotherly love is not limited to those in our families, or even to those in the church. In fact, Jesus was clear that his love was not only for the 99 sheep in his fold, but also for the 1 that was lost. (Luke 15:3-7) The Church, as the body of Christ, must display that same love for the lost - those who do not yet know Jesus and don't even know that they need him. That love for the lost must be the distinguishing characteristic of the church.

This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the Most Rev. Ben Kwashi the Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria, along with a group of clergy and church planters, in Chicago. Archbishop Kwashi spoke of the persecution, pain, and poverty that Anglican Christians have experienced over the past decade. When asked what we could pray for, Archbishop Kwashi did not ask for money, or even for peace. Archbishop Kwashi asked us to pray for a resurgence of love in the church. He explained that Christian Love transforms and defeats violence and terrorism. Secondly, Abp. Kwashi asked us to pray for honesty, because all poverty is the result of dishonesty.

Brothers and sisters of the Diocese of San Joaquin, join me in praying for love and honesty in the Anglican Church in general and in the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin in particular!

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