We are coming to an end and a new beginning.
Let me begin by saying how much I appreciate the St. Thomas community. I arrived in August 1997. I was a newcomer to the Midwest, to the frozen tundra, to the rather Catholic Diocese of Fond du Lac. I came as a result of a call that seemed to me very clearly from God. I was assured than and I know it to be true, that the vestry believed the same. It seems to me that this was a “risky call” as the vestry had the choice of two who would maintain the past and one who would bring change. I was the latter. I knew however that I was building upon the past.
I inherited from Fr. Bill a stable church with a commitment to biblical authority, sacramental and apostolic orthodoxy. Upon this foundation of Jesus Christ we have built further. It is St. Paul who tells us in today’s epistle (1 Cor 3:4-11) this truth.
one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Three exhortations from St. Paul:
1 “You came to believe.” The purpose of our ministry is that we might believe. We are not here to make people feel good. Not to bless what ever we feel like. BUT to make disciples transformed by the Holy Spirit for Christ-likeness and to continue Christ’s ministry. This is the ministry of evangelism.
2 “God made it grow.” We are servants of God. This is His Church and Jesus is Lord of the Church. Give glory where it is due – give it to God. Continue to pray for God the Holy Spirit to water and bring life to this body. Tell how it grew (healing team, missions, etc)
3 “Foundation, … , Which is Jesus Christ.” Our ministry and church life is all founded upon Jesus. He is the Lord of the Church, the author of our salvation. Christianity is not about the Church but about Jesus Christ – the Church is the “bride of Christ,” not a substitute.
4 We are called to be tireless in contending for the Faith that we have received. One sows, another waters and yet another reaps. The foundation is the apostolic faith that we have received and upon which we build. St Jude says:
I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Vs 3)
5 To this I add what Joshua says to the people of Israel as he prepares to leave them.
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
To be a follower of Jesus is a daily choice and commitment – a SURRENDER of who we are to who he is.
I have been dominated in these years with a passion for my vow at ordination, which reads –
Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to
banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and
strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word?
I have sought to be faithful to this vow in the midst of unprecedented change. I am deeply committed to the authority of Scripture, as this is how the authority of God is mediated to us. This is how God instructs and guides us. According to our catechism the Holy Spirit will only lead us in ways that are confirmed by the Holy Scripture. Our Anglican formularies call the Scriptures “God’s word written.” In my tenure here there has been a titanic struggle and a tectonic shift.
We cannot give up the authority of Scripture and remain an Apostolic and Catholic Church. We are to:
1Cor. 16:13 stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
Phil. 1:27 stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
2Th. 2:15 stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you.
Scripture is clear that we are to be a Missionary Church. The Great Commission is the parting charge/commandment of Jesus to his disciples. With this command he makes of those who follow him “apostles.” Ones who are sent into the world to proclaim the Gospel and to bring all people everywhere to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The mission is described as being to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Since my arrival in 1997 we have sought to serve Christ in our witness locally and overseas. Our ministry is to be life transforming so we feed the hungry, clothe the naked in Christ’s name. WE seek to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus.
To be a missionary Church is to embrace God’s transformation personally and as a body. Our ministry of worship, word and sacrament is not simply to bring blessing, but to equip us for ministry with the strength that only God can give. Through the sacraments, preaching and the sending and equipping of God the Holy Spirit our mission and ministry is made effective. May God bless you as you continue to stand and proclaim Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Clergy come and go. The body of Christ that is the local Church is a continuing presence. In this community we are St. Thomas Church. You are St. Thomas Church. You are the ministers of the Gospel.
It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:11ff.
We are weak but He is strong – one of our communion hymns
At last I come to today’s Gospel. John 21:15-19
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
• Do you love Jesus? He is not asking for a perfect love like his but the desire to love him.
• Do you want to be transformed by Jesus – from who you are to who He purposes and wants you to be?
• Come to him as you are.
• Surrender to Jesus who you are.
• Admit your need of Him and your sin. Receive his forgiveness, love and new birth.
• Receive the Holy Spirit and live for Jesus – let him light your fire!
We are moving now to the Baptismal Covenant. Before that I have the following questions. Please remain quiet and consider these, as they are the questions and answers that are essential to surrender and commitment to Jesus Christ. Yes this is an “altar call!” If any today are making this decision to receive Jesus then please come and let me pray with you in the chapel during communion. Please make your responses quietly/silently
Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
from the love of God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your
Answer I do.
Question Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer I do.
Question Do you promise to follow and obey him as your
Answer I do.
Welcome to the family of God. Love him, serve him – be a light for Christ Jesus in this dark world. This is our high calling. God bless you. Thanks you.