Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Acts of God

"But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea."
Exodus 14:16

The prospect of walking into the midst of the sea, while the waters stood as a wall on their right and left, might have seemed more dangerous than simply waiting for the pillar and cloud of fire to die down or blow away. No one had ever walked into the midst of the sea on dry land before, and what guarantee could they have that the waters would stay in place once they got too far in? Did their insurance cover Acts of God? Would the presence of the Egyptian military forces make the whole venture fall under the war exclusion? No wonder some proposed to return to Egypt and slavery.

Sometimes, however far back in the past the story may seem, we face the same choice that the Children of Israel faced at the banks of the Red Sea. Behind us, if we are patient enough to get past the Presence of God, is the safety of what we know, yet with no better prospect than slavery. This is the way that seems safest.

Continuing Anglicans demonstrated true courage by leaving an intolerable situation, and establishing parishes with little or nothing to start up. After more than three decades many of the early leaders and visionaries have already joined the Faithful Departed, and in many cases what has been left behind are churches fully established, some with up and running properties and programs beyond anything the naysayers imagined. Others merely struggled, as long as they could, to the last person, but not because anyone failed. They simply did all they could.

For all the churches that have remained in this battle, the uncertain economic signals of this present time might create fear. Voices urge an easier path, such as joining with the ACNA, which carries the price of forfeiting the integrity and validity of Holy Orders and our whole Sacramental system. Other voices urge, and when possible coerce, the "safe" path of Ordinariates, with the price of forfeiting our theological integrity and the clear message of the Gospel.

The most wide spread problem, however, is the inner urge to do nothing more than survive the night. If we can just hold on to this Anglican way until we die, taking no risks, keeping the manner of worship we like and the validity of our sacraments, we have a chance to keep our churches the way we like them, at least for our own life times. There comes a time, however, when opting for safety is the most dangerous course, and when saving every penny can be a sure path to ruin.

If we look at the work of God, in both Testaments, we never see Him inactive and playing it safe. He is leading His chosen people to the Land of Promise, or bringing them from captivity to rebuild the House of the Lord despite the threats of their enemies. We see the Holy Family one step ahead of Herod's murderous thugs. We see Jesus teaching and healing while His enemies plotted His death. We see the Lord rising from the dead, and establishing His Church with the same Disciples who had fled in fear a few nights before. We see them, after the coming of the Holy Ghost, enduring persecution to spread the Word.

What we never see is God as inactive, or telling His people to play it safe.

We can have as our highest goal nothing more than the notion of maintaining what we have , and what we are comfortable having. That is easy, it is safe, though it requires some form of returning to Egypt, either by compromise or by surrender. Or, with faith in God and in what He has revealed, and the tools He has given to us, we can aspire to fulfill our portion of the Great Commission.

Unless we are faced with choices that are risky by mere human standards, it is unlikely that we are following God's lead and walking hand in hand with Him. He always requires faith, and such faith as takes us through the waters on dry ground, if not walking on it without losing sight of Him and sinking. For many of us, such a time as this has come. Let us go forward.


neowagnerite said...

Thank you, Father, for this wonderful post.

Fr. Cyril Crume
St. James' Cleveland

Donald said...

Wow! Thank you Father Hart, I needed that! Don+

AFS1970 said...

WOW, excellent article. There is much to digest in this one.

Anonymous said...

"What we never see is God as inactive, or telling His people to play it safe."

Preach it, brother!


Anonymous said...

This is the kind of encouragement we need. Thank you.