“The Goal of Saving Men’s Lives”
June 26, 2016: The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 8)
CEC Foundation Day
1 Kings 19: 15 - 16; 19 – 21/ Psalm 16/ Galatians 5: 19 - 25 / Luke 9: 51 – 62
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Today is the 24th anniversary of the Charismatic Episcopal Church – a Church we belong to; a Church God called us to; a Church where God started a very good work and He will faithfully complete it.
It is also an appropriate day for us to be reminded of who we are. Who are we anyway as Charismatic Episcopal Church? Jesus told James and John, “You don’t know what spirit you are of.” We need to know who we are. We need to know whose sons we are. We need to know the God after whom we were made in the image and likeness.
The CEC is from God. He began a good work. The convergence movement was His move and this denomination is a good thing. We have been tasked, as a Church, to make the kingdom of God visible. This is good! This came from God!
Do you remember this article from Philippine Star when we were in Sheridan? It made a public proclamation of CEC being involved in reunification. The article featured how that we have icons that is of Eastern in tradition and we have statues, which is of Western tradition. Our worship is East and West and old and new because we were, we still are, and will continue to be into uniting the Church.
On July 16, 1054, East and West had the great schism. The Church from the West, which is the Roman Catholic Church, separated from the Eastern Church, which was the Eastern Orthodox Church. On July 16, 1993, and this is not a coincidence, God appointed the date where the East, represented by our first leader and West, represented by the first Patriarch of CEC met on this day. This started our being grafted officially into the Church Catholic, through the CEC. It wasn’t a coincidence; God was moving. He still is moving! It was a divine intervention. The CEC was called by God, is still called by God, to unify so the Church can go back to being one, catholic, undivided. We were, we are and will continue to be for unity, not division, not schism. It is a good and right thing. It is not a mistake! Don’t let anyone fool you and make you think that CEC was a mistake. This is a move of God! In fact, I would go further to say that what God put together, let no man separate. Indeed, it is the move of God! This is what we shout to the East and the West, and this is what we should be living out as Charismatic Episcopal Church.
Who else are we? I encourage you to go on the website of iccec.org and learn who you are, who we are. Exhaust all the pages and there you will see a lengthy writing describing who we are. As a summary, we are fully sacramental, fully liturgical, and we are also fully evangelical and fully charismatic. We were, we are and we will continue to be forever this. In fact, the theologians, during one theological conference of the CEC worldwide, said that the word Catholic means the convergence of these three streams. It is just that the Church divided.
We, as the Cathedral of the King, described who we are and as part of CEC, said that we are charismatic in expression (then, we need to express this and not be dead); we are liturgical in worship; we are Orthodox in doctrine; and we are evangelical in thrust. We are charismatic because we experience the gifts of the Spirit. These gifts are supposed to be a normative part of our life and not just our worship. We still believe in healing. We should be praying for the sick. Do you still believe and pray for each other? Do you still speak in tongues? Do you still keep your prayer times?
Nothing has changed! I am reminding us of who we are. We believe in the gifts of the Spirit. I am very happy that the Church school has come up with a form for students to help them find out what their spiritual gift is. We need to understand what the gift of God is in us that He gave us because we need to operate in these things. They are our gifts and our tools. The reason we have the name Charismatic is because we believe and operate in God’s gifts. We are not to suppress our gifts so that we will not quench the Spirit. We need to flow in the Spirit and in the gift/s that He has given to us. Part of our task is to carry the power of Pentecost and to demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit to our brothers and sisters in historic, liturgical churches who have forgotten what being Catholic means, which includes being charismatic.
We also bring the rich sacramental and liturgical life of the early Church to searching evangelicals and charismatics. They have thrown away the rich tradition of the Sacraments and liturgy. We are also intentional in our evangelistic efforts. Let me ask you, “When was the last time you randomly went to a stranger and approach them and talked to them about Jesus?” This used to be part of our everyday lives. What happened? I am reminding us of who we are. We provide a home for all Christians who seek the Catholic, Evangelical, Charismatic Church and the foundation for their lives and gifts of ministry. This is who we are as CEC.
The convergence of these three streams not just theological or doctrinal position. This is not just a point of view or opinion, but rather, a way of life, a mode of life. We also believe in consensus government. Our leaders are called bishops, referring to the word Episcopal. We submit to the authority of Bishops and we look to them as chosen people of God and their authority is God-given.
We believe in apostolic succession. We believe in continuity in God's everlasting Kingdom because men are not permanent. After us, there will be another generation who will continue to carry the torch of the kingdom of God and do greater things. It is continuity where you and I will pass on because the Church is not built on or owned by any one personality. Otherwise, it is a cult. If the leader dies, the Church dies with it. What we do is to be faithful on our watch so that we build on this generation; and the next generation will build on what we have built on and continue to further the kingdom of God.
We also believe in the culture of life. We believe all life is sacred. We are the voice for the voiceless and the unborn; the downtrodden and the oppressed. We are uncompromisingly pro-life. Saying that we are pro-life doesn’t just mean that we are against abortion, but we are for the sacredness of life and all life we minister to. We enhance, we strengthen and we encourage. We don’t tear down. We are not in the business of tearing down. We are CEC. We are pro-life. We are builders and we are committed to building strong and traditional families. We don’t believe in same sex marriage because that is not from God. We speak strongly against injustice and oppression, particularly when it impacts the poor. This is who we are.
You may say, “Bishop, you said nice things, but can we have some reality check here?” Let me say this: the CEC may be from God, but we are far from ideal. The things that I mentioned sound good and they are true and they are the ideal, but we are far from this. We are against the culture of divorce in our midst, but with a reality check, the culture of divorce is in our midst. We have tasted its sting. We have been hurt by its sting. It doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize it as our enemy. Divorce is our enemy because we have been called to unite. We shout to the East and West to unite, but we have been defeated by this culture of divorce. We have let our guards down, and we have forgotten who we are and we have accommodated and let this enemy come into the door and it has destroyed us.
Hence, we have developed a lack of confidence in man, even in the Church, because man has failed us and continues to fail us. If you have that feeling, I don’t know if I can blame you. Elijah came to that point. He did all the mighty things and killed 450 mighty prophets of Baal, and then, he got afraid of one woman. He went to a cave and God asked him, “What are you doing here? Why are in hiding?” He said, “My people, the Jews, have transgressed Your covenant. They had forgotten the covenant. They killed the prophets and they are after me. I am left alone.” According to St. Paul, the divine response was, “I have left seven thousand faithful people who have not bowed their knee to Baal.” God said to Elijah, “You think that it is end of the world. This is what I want you to do. This is My kingdom and it is an everlasting Kingdom. You prepare for continuity. You anoint this guy to be prophet, this guy to be king, and the other guy to be another king because My kingdom goes on. What you are facing does not signal the end of the world, much less the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God will continue because God is everlasting.”
St. Paul said, “The deeds of the flesh like drunkenness, carousing, outburst of anger, enmities, strife, dissension, and fighting are enemies.” St. Paul did not put a period after he said these things. He said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, goodness, faithfulness and others,” then you can put a period after this statement. God is not done; therefore you cannot stay in a skeptical attitude forever. You cannot stay hopeless forever. Elijah did not; Paul did not. Understand that beneath the tarnish of all these fleshly things is God’s image in the Church. His image and His likeness have been imprinted on the Church. Weak, as it is, because it is composed of people. God continues to scratch, and polish and strive until the image Adam lost becomes new, minted and restored that brightly bears the likeness of the Lord. God is still at work. Hold on to the hope of restoration.
Two years ago, on this same occasion, I said something that turned out to be prophetic. “We will go through a process that will involve a lot of resolving of issues, disagreements, conflicts, friction, offenses and we will have to go through a lot of reconciling, respect, acceptance of differences and weaknesses, acceptance of each other, and a lot of loving.” I was shocked when I saw this on my notes. This was said before the storm hit us in our Church and we let our guards down.
James and John asked Jesus, “Should we call fire down from heaven and consumed these enemies?” We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against culture of death and the culture of divorce. This is our enemy. This is who we fight. We need to know what kind of spirit we are of. We are of the Spirit of God. We have the likeness of Jesus in us. What is this likeness? The Son of Man didn't come to destroy but to save, to restore, to build up, and we were made in this image and this likeness.
In the Disney movie Lion King, when Rafiki, the monkey, found out that Simba, the young lion, was alive, he went to Simba and asked him, “Who are you? Your father, Mufasa, is alive.” Simba said, “No, he is dead.” Rafiki said, “No, I will show you that he is alive.” Rafiki took Simba to the water, and he made Simba look at his reflection. Simba said, “That is not my father. That is me.” Rafiki said, “He is alive in you.” Out of the clouds, Mufasa with his big voice said, “You have forgotten me, my son. You have forgotten me.” Simba said, “No, I haven’t forgotten you!” Mufasa said, “You have forgotten me because you have forgotten who you are. The reason you have forgotten who you are is because you have forgotten me, and you were made in my likeness and image. If you have forgotten who you are, then, you have forgotten me.” As Mufasa was fading, he was saying, “Remember…remember.” Simba then started running and Rafiki asked him, “Where are you going?” Simba said, “I am going to return to my place in the circle of life.” Being reminded of who he was and who he was made in the image and likeness of, he was going to take his place in the kingdom.
Let us admit it. We have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten whom we have been made in the image of. This is why we destroyed or at least tried to destroy each other. It is sad. We have forgotten that we are not destroyers. We have forgotten that we are builders and encouragers, people with edifying words.
Remember, you were and you still are builders. Remember, you were givers. You bless and you were givers of your time, your effort, and yourself. You ministered to people. You did not mind being disturbed in your office, in your work, in your studies. You joined the work of the Church. You never complained! That is who you were, who you still are. Remember! You were full of faith, and you still are.
Don’t sigh over what we call our glory days as a Church. It is still here. The gifts are still in you. It is still there, but sadly, it lies dormant. How I wish that all of us would one day be like Mt. Pinatubo's - dormant for a while, but when it exploded, its impacted the whole world, and its glory was seen from the moon. The gifts are still there and its potential for greater glory. In the kingdom of God, things are supposed to be increasing, not maintaining the status quo.
Remember and return to your place. This is who you are. This is who God made you. This is CEC. This is Cathedral of the King. We are not done growing up. God is not done with us. He is faithful. He began a very good work. We are still in a process – scratching, polishing the tarnish –
and He will faithfully complete it until the end. My question is: will you be part of it? Will you choose to remember? Or do we choose to say, “We will never make it.”
We will make it. Don't lose hope. Greater is He who is in us than and anything the world can throw at us. Remember! Nothing has changed to who we are. The only change is for us going from glory to glory. This is why I believe that greater things are yet to come and we will get better and we will increase because that is the way it is kingdom of our God.