“The Family of God: With Authority from Heaven”
August 27, 2017
The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 51: 1 – 6 / Psalm 138
Romans 12: 1 – 8 / Matthew 16: 13 - 20
Fr. Donn Bautista
Three years ago, the Lord put something in my heart to share with the Cathedral of the King. I remember Bishop Ricardo saying, “Donn, don’t worry because you will have your chance to share that.” When I was asked last week to celebrate this Sunday, I said to the Lord, “Maybe, this is the time.”
When I share testimonies, I don’t want to embarrass anyone; neither do I want to destroy the reputation of any particular person. Since our Collect today says that as a Church, we are to manifest the power of God, I hope and I pray that you would see that our God is a great God and He can take whatever situations, challenges or tragedies that we may experience in life and turn it into something beautiful. In the Charismatic days, I remember my mother would play Charismatic songs, and there was a particular song that she liked a lot, and a verse goes, “In His time, God makes all things beautiful in His time.”
In the gospel, our Lord Jesus asked a question, which He continues to ask us, “Who am I to you?” It is not religion that can save us, but our personal relationship with our Lord. Jesus is asking each and every one of us today, “Who am I to you?” Peter said, “You are the Christ.” Jesus said, “You are (Petros) Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church.”
These are two different Greek words: petros and rock, which is petra. Petros or Peter was not the foundation, but Christ Himself. Some say it was the confession. Yes, the confession is important, but the rock is not the confession, but the rock is Christ Himself. In 1Corinthians 10:4, St. Paul says,”And all drank from the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”
In Isaiah 51, it says, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn.” I firmly believe that when Christ named Simon Peter, it was not accidental, but it was purposeful. Peter was being called to walk as Christ walked. He did try to walk as Jesus did; in fact, he even tried to walk on water. This was no different from God’s plan from the beginning of creation. In the original plan of God, He said, “I will make man in My image and likeness.”
The original plan of God continues, and it is still the same. Sometimes, we can be diverted by so many things. Sometimes, we think that it is all about possession, and what we can acquire in life; but one day, when we stand before God, it is not going to be what we possess in life or our position in Church. At the end of the day, I believe that it is Christlikeness.
St John said in 1John 3:2, “Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed, but we know when Christ appears, we will be like Him.” Our goal is Christlikeness. Several Scriptures point to this. “We are living stones. They are built into a spiritual house, with Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone.” I used to think that the cornerstone was a pillar or a post. The cornerstone is the first stone that is laid in the building that lays the direction of where the whole building is facing. Everyone follows that cornerstone.
God also sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not just a giver of gifts, but the main task of the Holy Spirit, as it says in 2Corinthians 3:18 is, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is transforming us from one level of glory to another to be more like Christ.
Romans 12 says to us that we are to offer ourselves because God respects our free will. Each and every one of us has to surrender our will to God and say, “Here I am, transform me. Change me and make me more like you.” God uses the struggles, the trials, the tribulations and the tragedies in our lives to transform us to become more like Him. Scriptures says, “Like silver and gold are being refined, we are being refined through the furnace of affliction.” The light and momentary struggles that we are facing are producing an eternal glory far beyond all comparison. Although outwardly, we are wasting away, yet, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.
God says, “The first will be last and the last will be first.” We will never know that maybe there will be some Christlike ushers or Christlike maintenance people who will get into heaven before some abusive clergy. At the end of the day, our goal is not position, but Christlikeness, and this should be the goal of every Christian.
The Cathedral of the King has gone through much. I was there in the beginning with the Youth in the 80’s and I remember how it was when we had seven services on Sunday and a thousand people per service. Looking at us right now and we see what is happening, we might say, “Look, it is very disheartening.” I don’t see it in this way. I don’t see it quite as much because I come from the outside and I am looking in. I see that God is creating and doing something new.
My word for you is that: God can take some tragedy and transform it and miraculously create something beautiful out of it.” You might say to me, “Fr. Donn, that is very nice, but the problem is, you were not with us when we went through all these things.” “I like your word, but reality is quite far from that, and this is why a lot of people have left.”
Allow me to share with you something very interesting about God’s creation – about an oyster pearl. The oyster pearl is produced when a speck of dust or a grain of sand enters the oyster and begins to irritate it. Without that which irritates, the oyster would have no pearl. The tragedies and the difficulties that we face in life are what God is using to create the Christlikeness or the pearl in each and every one of us.
I will share with you a true story, which has a lot of parallelism with what the Cathedral of the King has been through. My intention is not to embarrass anyone or to destroy anyone’s reputation, but to give you an illustration of the awesome power of God that He can work miracles even up to this day. The struggles that we face are not against flesh and blood. It is Satan who comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Anyone can be used by Satan; in fact, Peter himself at one point was used by Satan, so we need to discern.
When I was in the Youth, Fr. Rocky divided us into different Bible Study groups. One day, there was this young lady who came in and sat down and began to tell her story. She said, “Well, I’ve had an operation and I had a cyst in both of my ovaries. My mother already had a total hysterectomy, and this was a year before she herself was diagnosed.” It was in an early stage, and it was spreading, and according to the doctor, she would no longer have the opportunity to bear any children.
That morning, I was reading a Scripture from Psalm 113, and there was a verse in this Psalm that said, “God grants the barren woman a home like a joyful mother of children.” So I shared to her, “I read this verse this morning and it said that it is not impossible for you to have children.” The young lady said, “I have only one ovary because the other one was taken out as it had growth in it and it was scraped. My mother is suffering from cancer and it has spread already so they took out everything from her.”
Deep in my heart, I was being bothered and I said, “There must be something hidden, some illness in this family that needed Divine surgery.” The strange thing is that every time I would see the mother, the mother would whisper in my ear and say, “Please, please, pray for my husband.” I asked the young lady and said, “Is there someone in your life who has done something to you, or maybe you had unforgiveness and bitterness in your heart for someone?” Amazingly, she opened up to me and she said that she was abused from age five to age twelve. Then I said, “Now, I see the root of everything.” I told her, “I want you to go to your father and tell him, “I forgive you.” She said to me, “Do I have to tell my father what for?” I said, “No, he knows exactly what he did.”
This young lady obeyed and went to her father and said, “I forgive you.” The father burst down in tears, and said, “I am sorry.” Strange things happen because people say sorry because they are caught or because they know that they have hurt God. Repentance will follow those who have godly sorrows. Unfortunately, this was not the case because after this, the father tried it on the second sister and on the third sister, and later on his niece. Obviously, there was no repentance.
It doesn’t really matter whether the grain of sand changes or not. The most important thing is that the oyster produces the pearl. We are not in control over people who have offended us. They will stand on account before God, but we are accountable for what is in our heart. We are to guard our hearts because out of it flows the issues of life.
The amazing thing for this young lady was that the cancer did not spread like that of her mother. Something miraculous happened in her life. I share this because sometimes, we want people to change. The only thing that we can do is to encourage them. I encouraged the father to go to confession. He did not want to because everyone will know. I said, “No, your confession will be held in secrecy. Go to confession.” Sometimes, people are more concerned about their reputation rather than their soul preservation.
The story doesn’t end here because the Lord, then, began to deal with me. The Lord spoke to me one day and said, “The reason why I have been giving these Scritpures for this young lady is because I want you to be the father for the children of the barren woman who will be a joyful mother of children one day.” Sometimes, you are put into a position wherein you can just walk away. I am sure that many of you, in the midst of the tribulation, just decided to walk away. I knew of people who experienced tragic situations like this, who had multiple personality disorders, and a person who have been living in a lie and covering up all these years; and now, the Lord wanted me to be involved in this person’s life. Despite of the fact that she was a lovely person, I was struggling in my heart because it was a big commitment, and I don’t exactly know what I was entering.
As a young Christian, I wanted to go to my elders to seek confirmation. I went to Fr. Rocky, and I told him, “You see, there is this young lady who has a potential to be one of the Youth,” and he told me, “Potential to be your wife?” I looked at him and said, “What?” So I told him that I would go to Fr. Obet. I told Fr. Obet, “The Lord is speaking to me and telling me that this is the young lady that He wants me to marry.” Fr. Obet said, “You know Donn, the moment she entered the Church, I knew that she was the one that God is preparing for you.” That evening that I proposed, I was in tears, and I said, “Lord, if it is possible, take this cup away from me, nevertheless, Thy will be done.”
The thing is, our second reading says, “That is your worship when you offer yourself. Prove the will of God that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” I am glad though that after thirty years of marriage that I decided to do the will of God. After thirty years, God gave the barren a home, and now, she is a joyful mother of children.
I stand before you today to tell you that regardless of what you have been through, maybe losing your trust for leadership, feeling scammed and abused physically, financially, and everything, I could tell you without a shadow of a doubt that our God is a great God. God is doing something new! Gideon’s men were thousands before, and yet, they were down to three hundred, but that was when the greatest miracles began to happen.
The vision of the CEC is to make visible the void. We thought that it was just a matter of putting on vestments, but what God wanted was for there to be true Deacons, true Priests, and true Bishops who are not living in lies and deceit, but living and worshipping God in sincerity and truth.
One of these days, I will come back and hopefully, I will have the opportunity to do another Eucharist in your new facility. One thing is for sure, there are those who decided to stay, and those who didn’t walk away. I had the opportunity to walk away from this young lady, and to just say, “Lord, let someone else do it. Why me? I don’t want to go through all that hassle.” There are those who were part of this Church and said, “That is their business. I will do my own business.” Some people have said, “I have gone through these difficult times, it is time to go now.” For those of you who stayed, when I come back next time or when we see each other at the feet of Christ, you would have become more Christlike because of everything that you have been through.
I can honestly say to you right now that my wife is more Christlike than me, and perhaps, I would say that since God promised that she would be a happy mother of children, she is a happy mother, but I don’t know if she is a happy wife. Sometimes, I can be the grain of sand in her life. I am the one that irritates her most of the time. Needless to say, God is calling us all to make visible the void.
Why am I still in the CEC? It is not because of any person, but because I believe that it is of Christ. God called us not just individually to manifest Christlikeness but corporately. How better to manifest God’s nature through the three streams. We have God the Father through the liturgy and the sacraments. God the Son in the evangelical world and a personal relationship with Christ, and God the Holy Spirit through the charismatic stream.
Christ is the Petra and we, like Peter, are called to make visible the void in the world. Not in vestments alone, not in lies and in deceit, but in sincerity and truth.