Statement of Faith and Mission
From the Rector Jonathan Olanczuk
Easter is a good time for us all to take stock of what being a Christian is really about.
What it means to be a Christian.
How to live and put into practice the Christian life and do what is asked of us if we would be His Follower.
Would-Be Followers of Jesus
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus?, said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Mel Gibson’s film ‘The Passion’ has been accused of being anti Semitic .
Critics claim that he makes the Jews responsible for crucify Christ.
This statement may be right in relationship to the film, but as I have not seen it, I cannot comment.
But this accusation has also been levelled at the gospel of ‘St Matthew’ and when applied in this instance it is totally inaccurate and wrong.
It was not just the Jews who cried out ‘Crucify, crucify, but every one of us who breaks the word of God in our lives. We are all guilty when we stop following the right path or take our hand from the plough.
Thank God that the gift of salvation is a free gift of love from Jesus to each one of us, not something that we have to earn.
All we need to do is say ‘Yes’ and follow, but to follow in the right way.
It is not for us to lower or pull down the perfect values set before us by Christ Himself.
To some it may appear that the Anglican church is doing this.
For the good old Church of England seems to be in a bit of a mess at present.
It appears to be dying.
It’s teachings and policies seem to be plagued by secularism and an overdose of liberalism and misdirection.
The seven deadly sins seem to have become the seven necessary virtues as the Anglican Church
and Secular Society appear to teach them as part of the gospel of a ‘salvation’.
So instead of Humility we have Pride.
Generosity becomes Covetousness.
Chastity is replaced by Lust.
Charity is consumed by Envy.
Temperance is drowned by Greed.
Patience is swallowed by Anger and Diligence is smothered by Sloth.
In our pick and mix society it is the true teaching of the church and the Bible and our eternal salvation which seems to have been be put on the back burner and forgotten about.
This Easter let us pray that our church will be part of the glorious resurrection in Christ.
We have to face it the Christian Community is only as strong as its members, so let us pray for the grace to be strong in these troubled times.
It is imperative that each of us, each church does what Jesus asks of us.
For He said, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.’ Revelation 3:20
So what does it means to be a Christian in our time?
There are many facets to the answer to this question concerning behaviour, lifestyle, morality, ethics, compassion and indeed every other virtue and attitude. Yet all of these factors are shaped by our faith. Our actual beliefs shape every manifestation of Christianity in our lives.
So what do Christians believe?
Well we all stand in church and recite the Symbol of Faith, the Nicene Creed; I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth................
If we look at some basic doctrines in the Creed we could mention belief in:
I) God as Father and Creator
2) the Trinity
3) the Virgin Birth of Christ
4) the Resurrection of Christ.
Let us suppose that the clergy of Britain were asked if they believe, without doubt or reservation, these four doctrines. What would be the result?
We should be able to safely say that the answers would be a 100% yes to all four.
However in a document issued recently called “Believe it or not! What Church of England clergy actually believe.” we find some extraordinary answers.
This pamphlet collates the answers given by Anglican clergy to a questionnaire.
The idea was sponsored by the Cost of Conscience organisation but was organised by Christian Research.
The survey was done in 2002 and 4,000 Anglican clergy were approached. 1,800 (46%) replied. Many questions were asked on a whole range of topics. We are just looking at the results relating to the four doctrinal issues mentioned above. Concerning belief in God as Father and Creator, only 82% said they accepted this without question. For the Trinity the acceptance figure dropped to 77%. For the Virgin Birth of Christ of Christ the figure was, 51% and for the Resurrection is was 66%; Remember, this was a survey among clergy whose job is to teach the faith.
Let me pause for a moment, for I am in danger of sounding like the Pharisee, ‘I thank Thee oh God that I am not as other men are’ However, the question that arises here is this; how far can anyone depart from the doctrines expressed in the Creed and still claim to be a Christian? Clearly there must be a frontier beyond which it is impossible to go.
Christians need to address this question and be bold enough to act on their conclusions.
So for the record I place set out before you what I believe in respect of the Creed and matters of faith.
1 I believe in one God, the Creator of all, who loves and cares for the human race. God is a Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God yet three persons.
2 I believe that human beings are fallen and prone to sin, and thus by themselves incapable of eternal life. There is a Devil (Satan), together with fallen angels who tempt and sometimes possess human beings. (Revelation 12 7-17). There is Hell as well as heaven.
3 I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, truly God and truly human, who died and rose again so that those who believe in him might have eternal life (John 3 16). This assurance of salvation comes to those who put their trust in Jesus. I believe that a Christian is justified by faith alone (Romans 5 1), but that this faith must show itself in works (James 2 17).
4 I believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we are reborn, and whose gifts (healing, evangelism, discernment, prophecy, tongues etc) build up the Church (1 Corinthians 12 and 14).
5 I believe that the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3 16), the standard of true Christian teaching, so that whatever is contrary to scripture (in tradition, reason or prophecy) is not acceptable.
6 I believe in Tradition, by which we mean the understanding of the Scriptures that has been held by the consensus of Christians in all ages and by most Christians today (1 Corinthians 11 16).
7 I believe that Jesus founded his one Church (Matthew 16 18), based on the apostles. This church is the invisible company of believers on earth and in heaven, but also one visible company on earth of those who profess the Faith (Acts 9 31). This visible church is catholic (universal) in that it is for all (not any particular race, class or culture), worldwide, and teaches the whole of Christian revelation without any special emphasis or omission. I believe that the local church should conform to universal Christendom (1 Corinthians 7 17, 14 34).
8 I believe in the authoritative ordained (in addition, and complimentary to, charismatic) ministry (1 Timothy 4 11) of bishops, presbyters (priests or elders) and deacons, handed down by the laying on of hands (Acts 6 6;14 23) in line from the apostles (the Apostolic Succession) (1 Timothy 1 13). I believe that bishops and priests are authorised to forgive sins in Christ's name. (John 20 23)
9 I believe in six other sacraments, namely baptism, the Eucharist, marriage, confirmation
(Acts 8 17, Hebrews 6 2), confession of sin (James 5 16) and anointing (James 5 14)- the basic symbols, or outward signs, of Christianity found in the New Testament- and that these signs are efficacious, not mere symbols (e.g. Galatians 3 27, Acts 22 16). The Eucharist is the central Christian act of worship (Acts 20 7; 1 Corinthians 11 18), and I believe the bread and wine to be objectively the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 11 26-27).
10 I believe in the communion of saints that is our fellowship with all Christians, living and departed and that the departed saints (who are aware of us (Hebrews 12 1) supposedly pray for us (Revelation 6 9-11). I venerate the great Christians of the past, who are with the Lord in heaven, and especially the Mother of the Lord (John 19 26, Revelation 12 1).
11 I believe in the general resurrection (John 5 24), universal judgment, and eternal life in a recreated universe (the New Jerusalem).
So this Easter let us live the life of the new Jerusalem and put on Christ, put on the whole armour of God and live as His sons and daughters as we celebrate His rising from the dead.
For Christ is risen and we have been given life, given life in abundance, so let us live that life to the full and through His grace bring all those we can to a knowledge of Him and thus to salvation.
Christ is risen from the dead trampling on death by death and on those in the tomb bestowing life.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia.