The Bishop Overseer’s Inaugural Sermon
Posted on February 6th, 2016
Saint Augustine (c. AD 432), the famed Bishop of Hippo, wrote, “A Bishop is a servant of the servants of God”.
Many people have a major misunderstanding regarding the hierarchy of the Church. They tend to look at it as a pyramid, with the masses at the bottom looking up at those on the top. (And unfortunately, there are some church leaders who are OK with that.) But, done correctly it’s exactly the opposite! The Church is an INVERTED pyramid, with the masses at the top, being served and supported by the priesthood. Those in leadership bear the Spiritual weight of those whom we serve.
Jesus repeatedly told the disciples, “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and minister of all.” (Mark 9:35) At the Last Supper, Jesus needed a way to demonstrate this principle one last time.
In John, Chapter 13 we read, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.’ … When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them, ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:3-17 NIV)
[BISHOPS QUIGLEY AND RAU THEN CONDUCTED A FOOT WASHING SERVICE]
In Gethsemane, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ prayed, “make them one, even as we are one”(John 17:21-22). The goal of Kodesh Mishkan Ministry Group is to build interdenominational cooperation by focusing attention upon our wide areas of agreement, and not upon the minutia that the enemy of our souls has used to separate us, lo these many years!
I am at once honored and humbled at the task The Lord has placed before me. As excited as I am about the possibilities, I am equally aware of the pitfalls!
In May and early June 1944, the battle-hardened troops being amassed in Southern England were kept apart from the newly-trained raw recruits. The reasoning was simple enough: they didn’t want the experienced guys telling the new guys how hard invading France was actually going to be! Almost 22 years ago (May 1993) Elizabeth and I planted The Upper Room Christian Servicemen’s Center in Rota Spain. Speaker after speaker (including myself) made bold declarations “putting the devil on notice”, etc. Well, he noticed! And less than two years later, the Center was closed, and we were back in America. I know that God’s purposes were fulfilled there. I left there a much wiser Pastor than when I’d arrived. It is my sincere hope that others will be able to benefit from the experience of my mistakes!
In response to a discussion I had on Facebook recently, I want to make something abundantly clear. Kodesh Mishkan Ministry Group is not – I say again, NOT – a new denomination or sect! KMMG is an inter-denominational ministry group. Our statement of faith was crafted as broadly as possible to encompass the widest range of Christian beliefs. We are trying to create an organization where Catholics and Protestants of every stripe will all feel welcome. This is an extension of an important Asylum and QFIA operating principle: “Check your dogma at the door”!
The establishment of the Kodesh Mishkan Ministry Group is an exercise in Faith. It’s a funny thing, faith.
Atheists argue that because God can’t be “logically” proven to their satisfaction, He must not exist. The famous physicist, Dr Robert Oppenheimer said, “Every physicist should believe in God. Every day we work with things that we cannot see, but know are there!” Regardless, many modern so-called “thinkers” seem to think that God’s existence is somehow contingent upon their belief in Him. They think wrong. God exists, whether or not someone believes in Him. God is not a construct of the human mind: The human mind is a construct of God. Likewise, Jesus Christ is Lord, whether or not someone personally accepts His sacrifice. IF we accept His sacrifice AND His Lordship our lives will be one of Faith and good works.
If we DON’T accept Him, It is written in Isaiah 45:23 and reiterated in Romans 14:11, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” That’s a conversation I hope no one who hears our ministers preach ever has to have!
Ironically, the problem with Atheistic reasoning is also a problem in the reasoning of certain Christian sects. They believe that because they have used logic to “prove” God, – and therefore chosen to believe in or ‘accept’ Him – their belief constitutes “faith”. But in reality, such faith is in their own reasoning and in their own understanding.
I am not suggesting that we should not engage in apologetics. Certainly we should follow Peter’s admonition: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). But we must also balance that with the recognition from Proverbs 3:5 that to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” also requires that we “lean NOT on [our] own understanding.”
The Orthodox Heiromartyr St. John Crysostom (teaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan) wrote that the Church is a hospital, that provides a “therapeutic treatment” for the soul. Salvation is not a matter of intellectual acceptance of truth; rather it is a person’s transformation and divenisation by grace. This transformation is effected by the analogous “treatment” of one’s personality. The divinely healed Spirit creates the fruit of good works. Saint John Chrysostom, it is clearly shown that the Church is a Hospital which cures people wounded by sin; and the bishops and priests are the therapists of the people of God.
And this precisely is the work of Kodesh Mishkan Ministry Group. In Patristic tradition, theologians are the God-seers. We follow the “method” of the Church and to attain the perfection of our faith, to the illuminate the soul and one day achieve divenisation. Theology is man’s Spiritual cure and as theologians we help others acquire the knowledge of God that will lead them to that cure! We are divinely called by God to serve as His representatives on the Earth. It is incumbent upon each of us as priests and bishops to reflect the Lord Himself. Just as the injured man on the roadside was grateful for the Good Samaritan, we want hurting souls to be happy to see us and to be better for every encounter!
We must look at every person we meet much in the same way as a doctor or nurse triages a patient. We must differentiate “illness” from “injury”, and prescribe a course of treatment designed to “cure” their malady.
A faith is a true faith inasmuch as it has therapeutic benefits. If it is able to cure, then it is a true faith. If it does not cure, it is not a true faith. The same thing can be said about medicine: a true scientist is the doctor who knows how to cure and his method has therapeutic benefits, whereas a charlatan is unable to cure. The same holds true where matters of the soul are concerned.
As Orthodox spirituality differs distinctly from the (self-rationalized) spiritualities of other Christian confessions, so much the more does it differ from the “spirituality” of eastern religions, which do not believe in the Theanthropic nature of Christ and the Holy Spirit. These mere philosophies (completely based upon the thoughts of men) have been surpassed by the divine Revelation of God. Eastern traditions disavow the notion of personhood: like dust in the wind, the individual is immaterial. And love, as a fundamental teaching of Christianity, is totally absent. Many Eastern traditions seek to divest themselves of images and rational thoughts, with the goal of achieving “nothingness”, or “non-existence”: being “one” with the creation rather than The Creator. There is no path leading their “disciples” to theosis or divinisation of the whole man. The Holy Fathers have consistently taught that Aristotle’s “natural and metaphysical” categories do not exist but speak rather of “the created and uncreated.” Either God made it, or it doesn’t exist.
The true Christian believer must be willing to accept certain realities: the greatest of which is that God’s ways are not OUR ways. That there are things about God that are beyond our comprehension. And we have to be OK with that!
During the Middle Ages, thousands of Protestant and Catholics put one another to death over the question of Transubstantiation: an argument over whether or not the bread and wine of Communion become the literal blood and body of Christ, or whether it is merely a commemorative practice. How asinine is that? If adherents on both sides had simply said, “this is a divine mystery, beyond our understanding…” Thousands of devout lives could have been saved, and the both Church wouldn’t have looked petty for killing one another over a matter no one can prove either way!
The writer of Hebrews summed this one up excellently: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 NIV)
It is precisely in admitting that God and His ways are BEYOND our understanding that we enter into the essence of Faith!
In Gethsemane, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ prayed, “make them one, even as we are one”. As Kodesh Mishkan Ministry Group builds interdenominational cooperation, we will focus our attention upon areas of agreement. And, if someone disagrees with us, we will NOT burn them at the stake!
Subculture ministries are inundated with hurting souls. And we’ve all experienced the old axiom that “hurting people hurt people”. As Subculture Ministers, we must seek to provide that Spiritual “therapeutic benefit”.
This weekend, we will be training up to provide that Hospital effect, helping others to discover the saving Grace of Faith in Jesus Christ.
As I said before, I am both humbled and blessed by the trust you have placed in me. I want you to know that I take it seriously. As “a servant to the servants of God”, my goal as your Bishop Overseer is not just to equip each of you to minister to others; but – and, perhaps, even more importantly – to help you safeguard your own divenisation by Grace.
And I do so confessing that there are some things of God that I simply don’t understand and probably never will! But I pledge to you that I will give you my best.
Tonight, I will leave you with a paraphrase of the Apostle Paul’s benediction to the Colossians (3:15-17): “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts, to which indeed [we] were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within [us], with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another… with thankfulness in our hearts to God. And whatever [we] do in word or deed, [may we] do all [by the Power of the Holy Spirit] in The Name of The Lord Jesus [Christ], [to the glory of ] God the Father.”
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