Tuesday, November 08, 2011

More Questions and Answers

There are two major sections of questions that my anonymous letter writer posed to me that I have yet to tackle. One set of questions was as follows:  Am I concerned for the people who come to my church? Do I teach them God's Word? Do I really know what God's Word says? I feel I have answered to some extent the last question. I feel I do have a working knowledge of what God's Word says. I do not, nor have I ever, claimed to be a major biblical scholar. I have read and studied the Bible in great detail. I do not claim to have all the answers, and I have no doubt in years to come I will look back on some of the sermons from my first years of ministry and wonder at how my understanding of scripture has changed and evolved. 

Therein is why I feel that the Bible is God's Word. No matter how long you study it and try to live your life by it, there is always more that you can learn and glean from it. You are always, if you are open to it, finding new inspirations and insights into the Scriptures. The Bible is largely inexhaustible in content. 

Now, as to the questions of whether I am concerned for the people who come to my church and whether I teach them God's Word, I feel the answer is a strong yes. While I am sure there are clergy who are not concerned with their parishioners, they do so at their own mortal peril. I take seriously my ordination vows. The vows I took at my ordination (found in the Prayerbook ordinal on pgs 531-533) are thus:

Bishop      My brother, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to this priesthood?
AnswerI believe I am so called.
BishopDo you now in the presence of the Church commit yourself to this trust and responsibility?
AnswerI do.

BishopWill you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?
AnswerI will.
BishopWill you be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of
such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?
AnswerI will.
BishopWill you endeavor so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?
AnswerI will.
BishopWill you undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, laboring together
with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God?
AnswerI will.
BishopWill you do you best to pattern your life [and that of your family, or household, or community] in
accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?
AnswerI will.

BishopWill you persevere in prayer, both in public and in private, asking God's grace, both for yourself and for others, offering all your labors to God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit?
AnswerI will.

You will notice the vows include things like reading and studying the Holy Scriptures, being a faithful pastor, praying, being a good example, and so on. In theory, when I fail to live up to these vows, I can canonically be removed from the priesthood. If nothing else, I am beholden to God to do these things regardless. So, to answer my letter writer, I am sworn, as all priests are, and called to care about their people and study God's Word. (Granted, whether they do or not in actual practice is a separate issue.)

In fact, the very act of Sunday worship in the Order for Holy Eucharist centers on the Word. While this would not satisfy my letter writer, I present my response here for my reader's edification. Our worship has two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Altar. In both instances, the Word, both written and actual, is proclaimed. The Liturgy of the Word always has 4 readings from scripture (Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel) and for Sundays and Feast days, a sermon. The liturgy of the Eucharist is the Lord's Supper where Jesus is remembered and presented in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.

So, do I (or rather the Church) teach the Word of God? Yes and yes. The Word of God is always presented in our Church as both the written Bible and as the divine logos or Word in the Eucharist. By design, one cannot escape the Word in an Anglican worship service either in sacramental or written form, often despite the best efforts of some clergy.

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