Midweek Fellowship – November 1, 2017
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
God is doing great things in our midst. Greater things yet are to come because God’s kingdom is ever increasing. He has chosen gladly to give us the kingdom of God, and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.
Jesus preached the kingdom of God and He told parables about the Kingdom. We need to see this because we are part of it. Jesus wants us to see the kingdom of God. He wants us to be born again. He wants us to taste and see the goodness of the Lord right in His very kingdom.
The kingdom of God will not come; it is at hand. It is not a place; it is within us. It is a realm, but it is a state that we get ourselves to be in. God wants us to experience this kingdom right here, right now, throughout all eternity. God gives us commandments and instructions, not because we are all going to the Kingdom, but because we are in His kingdom.
In Revelations 7, John said that there are multitudes in white robes, and they are those who came out of the great tribulation. They overcame and for this reason, they are in front of the Altar serving God day and night. We overcome so that we can behold and taste and see the goodness of God. Our purpose why we are in the Kingdom is not to serve so that we can go to the Kingdom, but to serve because we are in the Kingdom. We are not earning our way to the Kingdom by obeying the commandments of God. We are obeying the commandments of God precisely because that is what is proper in the kingdom of our God.
God accepts us in His kingdom as we are. We come to Him as we are, but we are not to stay as we are. God would not condone our sins and our iniquities, but He will accept us for what we are so that we can be cleansed from our sins. We come as we are and we allow Him to work in us so that His image is without tarnish. His image shines – new, minted and restored – rightly bearing the likeness of the Lord. God does not require us to be cleaned up before He accepts us in His kingdom. He will accept us first before He works on us.
Sunday’s gospel was all about loving God with all of our heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This was very familiar to the Israelites. Twice a day, the Jews recited the Shema. There was one story of a rabbi who was martyred. They were being persecuted for their faith, and they were being told to stop reciting the Shema Israel. The rabbi did not stop, so he was sentenced to die in a griddle, to be cooked alive. While this was being done to him, he continued to recite the Shema Israel. His followers asked him why he was saying the Shema at that time he was dying. The rabbi replied, “Yes, in my whole life, every day, I recited this Shema twice, but only now do I understand its full meaning.” Thank God for those who have gone ahead of us who have left for us a good witness that would inspire us, that would lead us, and that would challenge to also live the way they did.
It could be that we could give our body to be burned, and yet not have love. It could also be that we could sell all of our possessions, and give the proceeds to the poor, and not have love. It could be that we operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit but have no love. My question is: Cathedral of the King, have we been operating in our spiritual gifts and yet not demonstrating and having love for God and for our neighbour? If we do not have love, St. Paul says that we will be just like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
I am convinced with pure humility, standing in the presence of God that the message for us, Cathedral of the King, is out of the Sermon of the Mount – offer the other cheek. Walk the extra mile. Do not pay back evil for evil. This is what I have been pounding on you because this is what is in my heart. This is why I have been hearing from God that I should be saying this to you. We need to excel in loving our neighbour. This is a powerful witness to those around us.
Cathedral of the King, we have been slapped; we have been robbed; we have been burdened; we have been insulted, but what should our reaction be? What we have done was to withdraw ourselves, which is not the teaching of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount. What He said was to extend our patience and our compassion, and forgive. Do not pay back evil for evil. We have been hurt, and the culture of the world tells us, “an eye for an eye.” We can justify all we want, but Jesus said, “Do not resist the evil person and do not repay evil for evil, and offer your other cheek and forgive.” Forgive means as if nothing happened. This was the teaching and the example of Jesus. He endured our absolute worst!
As witnesses, we need to bow our knee first to Jesus and to confess that He is Lord by obeying His teaching. We are to be His body alive, proving that we are sons of God, and that we forgive as He does so that others would follow. His blessings flow through us first as His witnesses. We are His witnesses; we are His instruments; and we are His channels of blessings.
The greatest blessing that God ever gave us was His forgiveness of our sins. This opened the door of life for us. Acts 3:25 says, “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” James 1:18 says, “In the exercise of His will he brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind first fruits among His creatures.” Luke 24: 47 says, “For forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Psalm 133:3 says, “Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;for there the Lord commanded the blessing-life forever.”
In the arrogance of Israel, they thought that all blessings will start from them and also will end with them. It only started with them, but it will flow through all the nations. This is why we are witnesses because we are first to witness God’s goodness. We are first to taste and see that the Lord is good.
We are called to be witnesses to the communion of saints. Demonstrating the communion of saints, we draw, we inspire, we lead, and we influence people so that they would the same thing for them.
Our former Patriarch Randolph Adler in a prophecy said, “The CEC will not be known for its theology, for its three streams, for convergence, but for relationship.” God gave this revelation to him. The life of being liturgical, evangelical and charismatic will not be seen in rituals and ceremonies, but in the lives of those who live these streams in their lives, in how they are into relationship with one another. We are to be witnesses of these; we are to be in communion with each other. Regardless of the situation, for better or for worse, in tough times and in good times, we are to be in communion with our brethren.
God says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another.” This is best proven during tests and trials. One theologian said, “In a daring and beautiful creative reversal, God takes the worst we can do to Him, and turn it into the very best He can do for us.” This is the crucifixion. God absorbs our very worst, and He turns it into good. He gives it to us in the form of love and forgiveness. He did withdraw His love from us. He did not withhold His forgiveness for us. What He did was to forever dwell in our lives and be in communion with us. He reverses it and He turns it into something that would be a powerful witness. He did not run, but He emptied Himself, subjected Himself to humanity, and limited Himself to flesh, and Jesus freely accepted death.
I believe God wants to turn everything to good. I believe God wants to turn to good what happened to us, as a Church. He wants us to follow in His footsteps reversing the worst that was done to Him into something that became the best that He could offer back. True communion; effective witness. This is what God is calling us to do. The misunderstandings, the differences, the indifference, the hurt, the unforgiveness, or the hatred that we had or probably still have are powerful testimonies waiting to happen, waiting to be reversed, and waiting to be turned into something that is bad, into good.
The neighbourhood that we have around us are Cathedral of the King members waiting to happen. They are members, but they don’t know it yet. They are waiting to happen. God is presenting them to us, and wanting us to be witnesses to them. We have this grace to make that happen.
My eschatology is what it says in Isaiah 2 says, “One day, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be the chief of the mountains and people will rush to it and they will go up to it and they will say, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord, so that they can teach us their ways, so that we can taste and see the goodness of the Lord like they are tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord.”
This is what we are witnesses for, and our witness is seen in the demonstration of our communion of saints – how we relate to each other. We will not be known for our theology or how we expound the Bible, but in how we relate to each other – how we love, accept and forgive each other. Regardless of situations and bad experiences, we still learn to accept, to forgive and to be at peace with one another.
We will be witnesses if we live out the real communion of saints because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.