Friday Epistle for July 6, 2018

July 6th, 2018 by
The Tenacity of Our Father
One early fall day, while rounding a corner by the football stadium at William & Mary, I heard Marv Levi, the coach, yelling, “Be tenacious men, be tenacious!” When I returned to my dorm, I looked it up. And I have thought since then, that our God is like that, determined, determined to reach his children and he wants us to be as well. And so, in Sunday’s gospel he sends us out to proclaim the Kingdom and to set the captives free.
While thinking and praying of these Thailand soccer players trapped in a cave, I remembered a story told by Scott Hahn in his book, A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture. It reminded me of God’s tenacity — and ours. Will we keep looking for his children?
******
Following an 8.2 earthquake in Armenia, a distressed father remembered what he had said to his son so many times, “No matter what happens, Armand, I’ll always be there.”
He reached the site where the school had been, but saw only a pile of rubble. He just stood there at first, fighting back tears, and then took off, stumbling over debris, toward the east corner where he knew his son’s classroom has been.
With nothing but his bare hands, he started to dig. He was desperately pulling up bricks and pieces of wall plaster, while others stood by watching in forlorn disbelief. He heard someone growl,” Forget it, mister. They’re all dead.”
He looked up, flustered, and replied, “You can grumble, or you can help me lift these bricks.” Only a few pitched in, and most of them gave up once their muscles began to ache. But the man couldn’t stop thinking about his son.
He kept digging and digging – for hours… 12 hours… 18 hours… 24 hours… 36 hours….   Finally, into the 38th hour, he heard a muffled groan from under a piece of wallboard.
He seized the board, pulled it back, and cried,” ARMAND!” From the darkness came a slight shaking voice,” Papa…!”
Armand & his Papa

Other weak voices began calling out, as the young survivors stirred beneath the still uncleared rubble. Gasps and shouts of bewildered relief came from the few onlookers and parents who remained. They found 14 of the 33 students still alive.

When Armand finally emerged, he tried to help dig, until all his surviving classmates were out. Everybody standing there heard him as he turned to his friends and said, “See, I told you my father wouldn’t forget us.”
That’s the kind of faith we need because that’s the kind of Father we have.
Let’s go get them,

Friday Epistle – June 29, 2018

June 29th, 2018 by
How many of you reading this Friday Epistle love interruptions when you are working on a project?
How many of you treasure the times when your best laid plans are torn apart by some situation or problem that just comes out of left field?
You can ask Jana when I get on a project, I am like a dog with a bone. I will skip meals (which says a lot), forget appointments, and work till I drop or the project is complete. I generally don’t like interruptions.
However, the Lord has taught, and continues to teach Jana and me a key principle for ministry: “Ministry is what happens in the interruptions.” In the text from Mark 5:21-43, Jesus, in His ministry to Jairus and his family ,and to the woman with the issue of blood, gives us three clear contexts to consider where ministry happens in the interruptions.

I believe the text defines ministry for us, as it reveals the healing and saving power of Christ in the world. In this passage, Mark records for us a session right out of Jesus’ school for effective ministry. This fits really well with our new Sunday school series which is titled: Good news for the neighborhood part 2. I am excited for this Sunday morning and for the opportunity it affords to learn some practical ways to minister to our neighbors and those we come in contact with in our daily lives.
For such a time as this,
Glenn

Friday Epistle – June 22, 2018

June 22nd, 2018 by
I remember a conversation between my 
grandmother and daddy one day when I was very small. I was sitting in the front seat of the car, actually in-between their conversation. We were bogged down in traffic and the cars around us had stopped on either side and my grandmother remarked to him, “Every one of these cars have people in them and they have things to do and plans they’ve made and worries on their mind.”
At that time, at that age, this had to be one of the most remarkable things I’d ever heard. There was plenty to keep me occupied in the conversations of just our front seat. Honestly, it changed traffic for me ever since. It’s also proved to be one of the slippery realities I’ve ever had to hang onto. Not because it was hard to comprehend, just difficult to live into consistently.
Every car. Every driver. Every passenger and every person texting them to see when they’ll arrive or to remind them to pick up the milk.
It doesn’t take long for the cloud of plans, worries and hopes in your own vehicle to crowd out the similar cluster of signals in the windshields of those around you. Add that to the highways your GPS reads to you, streets named in morning traffic updates, and the half dozen roads you can drive without thinking about them we soon have a city full of traffic. Each connected to jobs, homes, schools, stores and transition. Multiply this just by the communities that your relatives and best friends live in and soon we’ll be completely awash in the detailed lives of the people you know and those you only see in passing.
This week, the readings draw our attention to David, Paul, and Jesus. All three of them people whose actions, plans and intentions shaped history in tremendous ways. Each of them also had an eye for the people passing by. David, the newly minted Hero. Paul, the unstoppable Apostle. And Jesus. The Christ.
We will see how God calls us to take actions that improve life for those in our immediate circle of influence and for those we know only in passing. For us and for those one boat over.
We also want to invite you to our Fourth Bible Intensive this week. Monday – Wednesday evenings from 7.00-8.30, we will be considering the NT book of Hebrews. Whether the book of Hebrews is a favorite of yours or if you’ve never read a book of the Bible before, you are welcome.
Each evening, we will share dessert, glimpse the glories of Jesus, meet new friends, and see how the book strengthens the inside of our faith while preparing us for external challenges to the faith. Did you know that Hebrews teaches that Jesus is greater than Moses? Did you know that I knew that? See how that all fits together.
We will have a variety of teaching, activities and opportunities to connect the message of this beautiful book to our own lives and mission. Childcare is provided and you can bring a Bible or borrow one of ours. For more information, contact Christopher at fractalpilgrim@aol.com

See you Sunday,
Christopher+

Friday Epistle – June 15, 2018

June 15th, 2018 by
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I greet you in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
Patsy and I are looking forward to our visit with you all Sunday and sharing what God is doing in Madagascar. There are many exciting things happening with God’s people in Madagascar and many lessons we can learn from them. One of the biggest lessons we have learned is being people reaching people – witnessing and sharing God’s love. The Malagasy people are great at doing this. Over the past 11 years we have seen tremendous spiritual growth as we have gone from 11 churches to
92 churches.
We look forward to meeting you and sharing God’s word together Sunday. May God bless you abundantly.
Serving Christ Together,
Todd McGregor
Diocesan Bishop
Diocese of Toliara
MADAGASCAR

Friday Epistle – Vacation Bible School

June 8th, 2018 by
Seventy kids, and a large number of our parish, have been showing up this week. It’s been fun, a little wild, and every day has been a blessing. Here are a few snapshots from the week.
From Bishop Carl: 
VBS impacts the spirit and soul.  
First of all it’s the interaction of the people, kids and adults smiling, laughing, serving, focusing on our Lord together.  I love being with the staff as well as the children. It is refreshment at its best and more.
 The soul gets nourished.  A friend of mine used to teach that when we taught, the first thing forgotten was the content. The second thing forgotten was the style, how you taught what you taught.  And the thing remembered longest was the attitude with which we taught.  Our attitude nourishes the soul.

We also can bless the spirit of those present.  We can awaken a thirst.  A parishioner sent me the following, borrowing from Max Lucado.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
The phrase “train up” descends from a root word that means to develop a thirst. Hebrew midwives awakened the thirst of a newborn by dipping a finger in a bowl of crushed dates and placing it in the baby’s mouth. To “train up,” then, means to awaken thirst.
Parents and teachers can awaken thirst “in the way [the child] should go.”
What an awesome gift it is!  This is a work of the Spirit to the spirit.

Roberta:

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed working VBS, especially with Caroline & Soleil.  It is such a joy (& I don’t use that term lightly-few things give me joy) to be around young, lively people.   It is wonderful to be around these wonderful creations of our Lord.

Whitney:

This is my second year as a teacher at VBS. Watching the children truly grasp these stories, and hearing their excitement, just reinforces the joy of our Lord everyday for me! I felt like the stories truly came alive for the kids in our class (and we had 14 kids!) and I cannot wait to see what the Lord does for these children in the coming year.
Sara:

This is my fourth year at VBS and my third year working in the crafts area. When the kids enter my class they have already heard the Bible story from their teachers, and perhaps seen it reinforced in the other special areas like skits and snack.  This year the kids are internalizing the stories in a way I’ve never seen in years past (the pre-K group told me all about leprosy!).  They are so excited to tell me everything they are learning from the Bible.  I am hearing from parents again and again what a wonderful time their kids are having.  I know they are going home and sharing the Bible stories with their families.  What a beautiful thing for the knowledge and love of Jesus to spread from our volunteers to the children and then to their families and beyond.  More than ever God is giving me a glimpse of the eternal significance of VBS!

 

  
To close, our fearless leader, Jane says:
“You can fear (or in my case, stress-out), or trust God.  But, you can not do both at the same time.”  I heard this statement on the radio a couple of weeks ago, and I needed that word!  At that time, Chris Reilly and I were still trying to secure volunteers to lead VBS classes and children were being placed on a wait list since classes had filled up quickly.  Once I trusted instead of stressed, God (as He does year after year) provided wonderful volunteers.  All have been AMAZING.  Our community is so blessed by their dedication to our children.
One of the aspects that I enjoy most about VBS is the opportunity for diverse people to serve/attend and remain engaged.  Volunteers are already signing up for next year.  Many of them are the young people who have attended VBS.  How awesome is that?  They have been learning about God’s love and now they plan to share it, although I doubt they will wait until next year to do so!

I can honestly say that the week of VBS is one my favorite weeks of the year.  Every year it is a week of joy, love and encouragement.  The joy is seen on every face of a child.  The love shines through our volunteers.  All who come (children and parents) are encouraged to seek, meet and accept the Lord.  “For all the promises of God find their Yes in God.”  2 Corinthians 1:20.
Please come Sunday to celebrate with us. We will have more stories and songs from our week of adventure!
Tags:

Friday Epistle for June 1, 2018

June 1st, 2018 by
Friday Epistle – Dr. Larry Selig
         We had lived in Pittsburgh for 20 wonderful years when we put our
house on the market before moving to Winter Springs in 2002. All of our
children and grandchildren were already in Orlando, so the move
was easier emotionally.  We had experienced so many blessings there with
our family and neighbors, so we prayed for the right family to purchase
our home and continue to experience that blessing. At the home inspection, we
asked the couple with three young children who were buying it if we
could pray a blessing with them before they prepared to move in. They said
yes and could they bring several other family member when we did
this? Of course! Well to our surprise, they came with their three children,
parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, filling our large living
room as we gathered in a circle to pray a blessing over them and the
house as they moved. Their children then presented us a plaque for our
new home in Winter Springs saying “Bloom where God plants you”. How
precious. It is now on our large porch table where we love to entertain!

        Since we moved to Winter Springs 16 years ago, we have had many
wonderful opportunities to share with our  neighbors. Each time a
house near us comes on the market, we pray that the Lord draw each
family who moves in. And it is fun to see how special relationships
result.And many opportunities to pray with them in times of crisis.Last August,
a single mom who was widowed, purchased the home next doors and moved in with her three lovely daughters. Within a week, a friendship  began which blossomed this Spring with the three daughters inviting Jesus into their lives and Mom reconfirming her  relationship with the Lord. They started coming with us to NCC, and love the welcome you all have given. The girls asked me if I would baptize them so they could publicly confirm this new relationship with the Lord and receive Holy Communion.
So this Sunday, being a Presbyterian pastor ministering to this family
whose family roots were Presbyterian, Carl has invited me to join him in  baptizing them at the 10 AM service, and also have me preach.The sermon will deal with turning  our lives over to the Lord’s control, influenced in part
by a story I told the girls and their Mom, helping them understand what
trusting Jesus involves. Please be in prayer for them as they come to
be baptized or reconfirm their baptism this Sunday.

        The picture was taken two weeks ago when the girls, Emily, Stephanie, Heather and their Mom, Angie helped me plant a croton in our front garden in honor of their father and husband who died four years ago in May.                Incidentally, just a week ago, two additional houses across the street from both or ours went on the market. The girls said they would pray with us that just the right families move in with whom we could build friendships. We literally and spiritually are seeking to extend God’s kingdom and bloom when God has called us, planting flowers

and friendships for Jesus. Perhaps you are doing  this as well in your neighborhood.
Thanks be to God for His faithfulness  in allowing us to assist Him in changing His world.

In His Strong Name,

Larry

 

Friday Epistle for May 25, 2018

May 25th, 2018 by
SACRED ANTACIDS
By Justin McRoberts
A young man came to his priest. “I feel like something is terribly wrong in my spirit. Please help me.”

The priest replied, “Can you describe the feeling?”

“It happens every night,” the young man said.  “I lie down and begin thinking over my day when a terrible feeling comes over me; a burning in my heart, like the burning the disciples felt when meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. But when I feel it, it feels like something is wrong. It’s more like a pain. It’s as if God is trying to tell me something. Please, help me. What does it mean?”

The priest bent forward from his chair, reaching into his satchel. The young man, thinking the priest was climbing out of his chair to kneel on the ground and pray, slid out of his chair onto the floor, bowing his head and extending his hands, palms up, to receive the priest’s blessing.
But instead of a prayer, the priest laid a single antacid in the young man’s open hands. “You’ve got heartburn, son.”
Don’t get me wrong. I do regularly pray. And sometimes I’m praying about a physical discomfort.
But sometimes I just need an antacid…
and sometimes I just need to eat better…
and sometimes I need to sleep more…
and sometimes I need to see a trained, professional therapist…
and  sometimes I need to change the shoes I’m running in.

And I think all of these things are spiritual matters.

In the past I might have suggested that therapy, exercise and medicine were un-spiritual things, as opposed to prayer, fasting and meditation. Nowadays, I wonder if it is un-spiritual to consider one aspect of my life “Spiritual” leaving all other aspects of myself partitioned off.  I wonder if thinking spiritually means seeing my whole life (emotional, psychological, physiological, religious, economic, social, familial…) as singular – as if my Creator is concerned with every inch and aspect of my whole self.

I don’t believe it is at all unspiritual, much less un-Christian, to see a therapist or take an antacid.  I do think, on the other hand, that it is distinctly unchristian to separate physical or financial parts of my life from my “spiritual life.”  God, whose greatest revelation of Himself was to become fully human, has great concern with all of me.

I find that one of the most powerful aspects of the Incarnation story is the 30 years of silence before the recorded part of Jesus’ life. That silence says to me that, until he was baptized by John, Jesus lived a life that was, in large part, unremarkable, since nobody found much of it worth marking down. Many days, I find my life to be somewhat unremarkable; I work, I eat, I rest, I have time with family and friends. Nothing out of the ordinary – not even a flash of celestial glory.  I am encouraged that Jesus lived such a life as well, at least for a time.

Unlike many other ancient Incarnation stories wherein a god takes on human form for a while and only to serve a special purpose, in Jesus, God not only becomes a human being…
He’s carried in a woman’s body…
born to that woman…
raised in a family with parents who taught him to feed himself…
had a dad…

And it seems, somewhere along the way, lost his dad…
had siblings…
had friends…
lost friends…
lived in the neighborhood…
had neighbors…
held a job…
worked for money…
paid for food…
paid taxes…

All of which says to me that these things are not insignificant in their normality, but that God finds worth in spending most of a human lifetime attending to simple things like work and neighbors and friendships and family.

It seems that God not only abides in mundane things, but dwells in them and does so gladly. And if that’s true, which I believe it is, it means he dwells in me and my work and my community. A community of beautifully normal people with jobs and kids and mortgages and leaky faucets and disagreements and heartburn and issues to work through externally and interpersonally.  A community who gathers on Sundays to celebrate and remember the One who is glorious and majestic and who was carried in the womb of a teenage girl to be born into the world just like any of us normal folks were.

It means every thing matters.

Not just a world I cannot see, but the world right in front of me.

My job matters.
My bank account matters.
My education matters.

My health matters.

From his book, PRAYER, pages 28-30
Go to his website:  www.justinmcroberts.com
Who is Justin McRoberts?
         Since 1999 Justin McRoberts has been a constant and noteworthy presence on the independent music scene. A songwriter, storyteller, teacher and an advocate, he is one of those rare artists who blends artistry, honesty and humor seamlessly.
         “In and through art,” Justin writes “we learn to see ourselves and our world as part of a cohesive, Divinely-orchestrated story.” Sharing stories and songs with an audience is where Justin’s gifts are most fully realized. His live shows strike a delicate balance between intellect and emotion; between inspiration and a call to action.
          Central to Justin’s work is advocacy on behalf of the poor and oppressed through Compassion International. “Not only do the poor need us,” he writes “we need the poor to remind us what being human is about. In the same way that the poor learn to identify themselves with their lack, the wealthy learn to identify themselves with their wealth. It is in the meeting of the two that we can recognize ourselves and one another as human.”
Blessings to You All,

Men’s Retreat

May 21st, 2018 by

The 2018 Men’s Retreat at New Covenant Anglican Church was an exciting and uplifting gathering of about 45 men who were seeking the Holy Spirit as a greater friend in their lives. Men came from different walks of life including Bishop Godfrey from Tanzania. We saw short film clips of Bishops William, Michael and Godfrey speaking about times that they have seen the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. In addition to a great breakfast provided by Rob Beckman, Dave Ruddell, Eardley Willock, and others, we also had a fantastic lunch provided by Susan Stephens. Canon James Kennaugh was the presenter and led many of us to a new way to encounter the Holy Spirit. John Stephens led worship and the worship team included Peter Buffington and Ethan Hunt. Below are some of the Highlights of the day:

We are in a war zone between Jesus and Satan. Good and Evil. Satan took dominion of the earth at the fall. Man obeyed Satan not God. Do you know what the will of the Father is for your life? If not, go on a spiritual journey with the Holy Spirit. We are soldiers in the war and must know our role in the war. New Covenant is a military base. Prayer is our weapon and we follow the Spirit as our lead for prayer. Expect God to bring healing, be spiritual in your expectations. The enlightenment made us secular beings and suppressed our spirits. Healing happens when we are spiritual. Sometimes the prayer is just Come Holy Spirit.

The coming of the spirit fills on the inside as well. Jesus came to die on the cross, reveal the heart of the Father, and to train a team to carry the spirit forward. All the miracles that Jesus performed can be described in the gifts of the spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 : “Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

Ezekiel 47 vision “The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”

This is a vision of the kingdom. How deep is your spiritual water?

Canon Andrew White, Anglican in Baghdad. God is raising Muslims from the dead. Jesus is giving them every chance.
The spirit has been working in our lives since birth. Grow into it. The Spirit is still growing. Holy Spirit is always present and working in our lives bringing everyone to Jesus. Be careful how you treat non Christians. The Holy Spirit is working in them now. As the Father has sent me I am sending you. The Final Command instead of The Great Commission. Disciples make disciples. Jesus came to provide life in its fullness. We all need to be healed and forgiven. Tears in the Holy Spirit is a release of pain.

1 Corinthians 2:11 ” For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.”

The Spirit is to understand God.  The world does not understand because it is not spiritual.

You can resist the Spirit. Physically, Emotionally, Spirituality.

Tale of Two wolves:
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice,
“Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.
Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”
Do not feed the evil wolf.

There are Atmospheres where the kingdom is and is not. You can get slimed in a non kingdom atmosphere. You have to recognize attacks. You invite attack when you go to the temptation. Eph 4:23 “.You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Repentance is about doing a 180 on your thinking not just your sin. Do not live an offense, like the unforgiving servant. We have to let go of un-forgiveness. You have to hear the spirit in a still small voice so make sure nothing else inside you is screaming louder.

Put the kingdom first. Discover where Jesus is and what he is doing and go do it with him. Make sure you are prompted by the spirit before you pray or give comfort. The Spirit can be alive and well but the brain can be shot. Get comfortable with the spirit, not the physical because the Spirit is eternal.  We need intimacy in our worship and relationship with Jesus.

Phi 4:8 ” Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Think about these things. We are more likely to hear from the Spirit. Eyes focused on the kingdom in your life. You are called to be a priest in every situation. The marketplace is where the healing is. Don’t have to wait for church service. If a worldly person sees God manifested that is all that is needed.

Blessings to all,

Bill Stone

 

 

Friday Epistle for May 11, 2018

May 11th, 2018 by
HE ALSO MADE THE STARS
Why do we spend a good bit of time on Sunday mornings praising God?  It’s not just a sing along, or as in some churches, a concert, but it’s a time of praise.  We can express that in different ways, but ultimately it is our offering to our God, and it’s what we are created to do.
Jesus said it is what God has ordained us to do on earth and in heaven:
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
” ‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’?”
And he added, if we don’t the stones will:
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
SO DON’T MISS IT!
Don’t’ miss it! — This video by Louis Giglio is 8 minutes plus.  But includes the recording of the sounds of stars, and whales. He wraps it together with, “How Great is Our God.”
How Great is our God
How Great is our God
Don’t miss it! — How can we not join in the praise of all creation?  Yes, he also made the stars and they sing constant praises. Don’t miss an opportunity to join in the hymn of the universe on any given Sunday at New Covenant.  It is a bit beyond our imaginings, but then it’s about God.
Psa. 148:1
 Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens,
praise him in the heights above.
2Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars.
4Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
Blessings to You All,

Friday Epistle for May 4, 2018

May 4th, 2018 by

What do you do with the fifth goat?

Between the Services Sunday:
Join us for “Up, Up & Away- Jesus’ Ascension and Ours” this Sunday at 9am in the Parish Hall. How does the reality of Christ’s ascension (which we celebrate this Thursday) make a difference in the lives of those who follow him.
         “What do you do with the fifth goat?”
      Bishop William asked the leaders gathered from across India this question as he began his week of teaching about leadership in the church: Leadership that is fruitful, lasting, and marked by abiding joy.
     The priests and deacons of Mission India, seated together in an upstairs room, lit up as he described a farmer who had a single goat. He loved it so much that he fed it by hand, sang to it at night, and led it around for walks on a leash. Each day concluded with his prayer of thanks for the blessing of his goat. Later, the arrival of a second goat doubled the farmer’s thanks. The following year brought a third goat and then a fourth.

     At this point, the goats sometimes tangled their leashes, and the pressing need for food and water left the man frustrated. At night, instead of singing, he worried how he could bear the burdens these goats placed on him.
And then came a fifth goat.
“What do you do with the fifth goat?”
      Even across translation, +William is so good at this. He and +Carl have joined Ivan+ and Felicita with these friends (and more from the US) for the past several years, gathering together the local leaders who have been sharing the gospel, planting churches, enduring persecution both systemic and hostile, and thinking about leadership development for the next generation. What a joy to be with these women and men in worship, meals, prayers, study, discussion, and strategy. Every wonderful thing I’ve ever heard about the Christians there was true. (And your prayers for me, my family and the translator were graciously answered.)
      Their faithful service has led to increased responsibility and increased suffering. They talked about these things and many others. Conversations about new people to reach. Questions about pastoral responses to difficult situations. Concerns about safety and courage. Or, as +William might say, “Very many goats.”
     The opportunities and blessings God lays before us all can be occasions either for thanksgiving or complaint. Our own “goats” certainly have different names, but the challenges that accompany entangled commitments, allocating limited resources of time and attention, and thinking about tomorrow with either hope or anxiety is common to each of us. India, Winter Springs, DRC, Apopka, Zanzibar, Casselberry, South Sudan, Oviedo.
     Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard from a number of our international partners about life in their piece of God’s kingdom. Their places, like ours, are yet unfinished. The reign of God has not been fully realized. Opposition to God and the effects of this world’s sin have left their mark on the places they serve and the people for whom they care. In many cases, the burdens they face on a daily basis cause us to be shocked and moved to prayer. It happened again this week.
      But the burdens and challenges in our own piece of God’s kingdom urge us to pray with them, and not simply for them. Despite our relative comforts and security, our neighborhoods are not yet living under the saving care of the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s prayer is still needed both there and here.
     Joining our prayers to God with them, in partnership, allows us to see the challenges common to all those who follow God in the broader light of the struggle and triumph Jesus has won for us. The specifics of our situations vary. But as our partners reminded us as they joined us for hospital visits and prayers, suffering is common to all until Christ returns.
      +William pressed one additional point throughout the week. The blessings of God, the service and calling God has given to us is not designed to be fulfilled as duty alone. It is to be done with joy. Not joy as an additional duty, but as an experience of serving with Christ as he leads and provides.
      This week, we will look at the path to victory laid out for us in the words of Jesus and two of our Apostles. The Resurrected life is for Christ and for all who are his. Wherever they live, whatever they face, whatever the names of their goats.
See you Sunday,
Christopher+