Sermon: Apostolic

Boudreaux and Thibodeaux went hunting and got lost in the woods. When Boudreaux began lamenting their fate, Thibodeaux said, “You know, I heard that the best thing to do if you get lost is to fire three shots in the air.” So they did that, and waited a while. When no rescue party showed up, they fired three more shots. Finally, when there was still no response, Thibodeaux said, “Well, I guess we better fire three more shots.” “OK, if you say so,” said Boudreaux. “But somebody better come soon—we’re about out of arrows!”

One holy catholic and apostolic. We’ve reached the final and fourth mark of the church as described in the Nicene Creed: apostolic.

The apostolic mark of the Church speaks of continuity. It is not a line that goes backward like in a children’s connect the dots puzzle, but a bond, an uninterrupted progression from Jesus and the apostles to us today, made possible through the bishops and the work of all God’s people. It began at the manger in Bethlehem and continues through the witness of every Christian today. However, where one holy and catholic primarily speak about who we are, apostolic speaks mainly about what we do, our work as the Church.

Our work as the Church is summarized nicely in the form of questions that we ask in the Baptismal Covenant: Will you continue in the apostles’ teachings? Will you persevere? Will you seek and serve Christ? Will you strive for justice? As the Church, I believe we do a brilliant job of these things, both individually and corporately. However, although we can always improve, there is one area of our work that we really need to improve. You see, as Episcopalians, we have selective hearing when it comes to the question, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” As Episcopalians we hear, “Will you proclaim by {mumble mumble} example the Good News in Christ?” It is good to proclaim Christ through our work, but in some cases, it is the equivalent of shooting up arrows and hoping someone will hear you.

An apostolic church is one that has continuity with the past, but it is also one that continues into the future. For that to happen, we must be like those first apostles and proclaim Christ’s message with our deeds, but there are also times when we must speak plainly about our faith.

During this Advent season, we hear God’s word as it speaks about the first and second coming of Jesus. Some will remember our minor prophet’s study when we discussed Joel and how he talked about “the day of the Lord.” Speaking of this day, the Lord said, “I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Yet in the midst of that message of judgment, there was the message of hope, for the Lord adds, “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

It is the Apostle Paul who quoted this line in his letter to the Romans, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Paul then adds, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” And, following his resurrection, Jesus said to his apostles, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

In the movie Gravity, Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone who is aboard the space shuttle when it encounters catastrophic failures (hopefully, I won’t spoil it too much for you if you haven’t seen it). Towards the end, she finds herself alone, with limited oxygen and no way home. She is unable to communicate with mission control on earth, but as she turns the dial, she picks up through the static the voice of a man, Aningang. He can’t hear her, but through her tears she speaks to him: “I’m going to die, Aningang. I mean, we’re all going to die. Everyone knows that. But I’m going to die today… Funny that. To know. And you know what Aningang… I don’t care. I don’t care if I die. I don’t have anything… not anymore. But the thing is… I’m still scared. I’m really scared… No one will mourn me. No one will pray for my soul. Will you mourn me, Aningang? Is it too late to say a prayer? I’d say one for myself, but I have never prayed in my life… no one ever taught me how… No one ever taught me how.”

How would it be to die and to not know how to pray? How would it be to die and not know that there is a God of infinite love? How would it be to die and not know that the God of infinite love, loves you?

Our new Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, recalls the words of the angel at the empty tomb of Jesus, “This Jesus of Nazareth whom you seek, he is not here, he has been raised as he said he would be and he has now gone ahead of you to Galilee.  There you will see him.  It is in Galilee that the Risen Lord will be found and seen for he has gone ahead of us.”

Bishop Curry goes on to say,

“Galilee.  Which is a way of talking about the world.

Galilee.

In the streets of the city.

Galilee.

In our rural communities.

Galilee in our hospitals.

Galilee in our office places.

Galilee where God’s children live and dwell there.

In Galilee you will meet the living Christ for He has already gone ahead of you.

The church can no longer wait for its congregation to come to it, the church must go where the congregation is.

Now is our time to go.  To go into the world to share the good news of God and Jesus Christ.  To go into the world and help to be agents and instruments of God’s reconciliation.  To go into the world, let the world know that there is a God who loves us, a God who will not let us go, and that that love can set us all free.

Bishop Curry concludes, “This is the Jesus Movement, and we are The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal branch of Jesus’ movement in this world.”

We are one holy catholic and apostolic church. As the Church, we stand at the foot of the cross, made complete in one flesh with Jesus, bound together in love, and made holy by means of grace, and our continuing mission has been firmly established.

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” He sends us all to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. You are the Episcopal branch of Jesus’ movement in Enid. Go! Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us. And remember, He is with us always, to the very end of the age.

Let us pray—Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Follow this link to see Bishop Curry’s full message.

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