If we want politics, we can find it elsewhere. If we want social services, we can find those elsewhere, too; likewise for social company. The Church, though, has a monopoly on God and prayer, which it is squandering at present.
–bls, from the comments
Lately, there has been a lot of institutional mystification within Anglicanism all around that wants to make the gospel something other than the unconditional promise of and in Christ.
Some identify the gospel as institutional imperatives of unity or the tensions between justice and unity
Others identify this gospel and the sharing of this gospel with our causes of justice.
Some identify the gospel with purity. Many of these sites are too much for my delicate constitution.
These may be fruits of the gospel, they may be outcomes of our hearing very God, but these are NOT, let me repeat, these are NOT, the gospel of Jesus Christ.The gospel is the promise of right relationship with God by no doing of our own, is peace and joy and fullness in Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead, who is present to us and for us here and now in the Word proclaimed in the reading/preaching and received in, with, and under the bread and wine. Jesus Christ himself is the Good News!
This gospel, Jesus Christ, makes the Church, not the other way around, and it is in this proclamatory sense that the Church is the books’ as proclaimed and not only that the book is the Church’s as is sometimes popularly trotted out. It may be our book, but proclaimed it is God’s Word to us and for us, and not only collectively, but to each member thereof. Because in the proclaiming of the Word, Christ is here present—the Scripture is not ours, it’s God’s. I intuited that years ago when my priest would ask me to be the lector at daily Mass on a regular basis to my fear and trembling. I used to think that was a bad thing, now I take a little nervousness in proclaiming God’s Word as a good thing. It’s not my word, it’s God’s, and in the proclaiming, Christ is present to us and for us here and now. A little nervousness is appropriate.
–Christopher, from here
I’m for the basic principles of the Millennium Development Goals. I like the idea of the portions of the world who have disproportionately been consuming the earth’s resources taking pause and assisting the basic living conditions of those who live in situations of poverty and oppression that most of us can not begin to understand.
What I really don’t like, however, is the way that the Episcopal Church as a whole has been working with and talking about the MGD’s. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ensuring justice for the orphan, the widow, the stranger in the land, these are the outward and visible signs of the Gospel taking root in your heart and body. These things are not, however, the logical or theological beginning of the Gospel.
The Gospel begins with the Good News of what God has done for his creation through the person of Jesus Christ. That God became incarnate “both as a sacrifice for sin and a model of godly life.” That what God has revealed through the Holy Scriptures and through Jesus Christ is a whole different truth about reality than what collusive and destructive powers whisper to us so convincingly. That ultimate power resides in love. That ultimate life is found in God who constantly invites us to participate in his own life, that our life is hid with Christ in God.
Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ensuring justice for the orphan, the widow, the stranger in the land, these are the logical and necessary consequences of the Gospel, these are the limbs’ obedience to the heart’s faith. These ways are the paths we are bound to walk if we take God’s revelation of truth seriously.
But our preaching and our teaching becomes disoriented if somehow the logical corollary becomes the focus and the central thesis from which it proceeds is obscured. The Church’s primary responsibility is the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel, then the works of mercy that flow from this revelation. To preach the works alone, or to assume that the connection between the faith and the works is obvious and need not be said is to risk corruption of the Gospel with which we have been entrusted.
The Episcopal Church should teach about the MGD’s. But it should first preach Christ. It should first teach the simple—but difficult—truth of God’s reality. Then teach the implications, then teach the works. But first, preach the Gospel.