The following is a continuation of the Bishop’s Charge to the Convention. Part I was published last month, in which the Bishop spoke of his continuing call to us for L.I.F.E,. (Leadership In Faithful Evangelism, through the Way). This is the last installment, in which he moves on to Truth, and the LIFE.)
Truth as proposition, Truth as expression and truth as regulation. All of which lead to the Way, Jesus in talking about himself as the Truth immediately said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Truth, if it has meaning for us, leads to changed behavior. We are called to respond to Truth not only with assent but also with a change of heart, a change of mind and a change of life. That change can be called the “Way.” It is interesting to note, as Bishop Miller pointed out this morning, when persons are invited by God to go on a journey, that journey pointed in a particular direction. It pointed out of Eden, it pointed into the wilderness, it pointed to another vocation when Jesus came and said, “Follow me.” The Way for Jesus pointed to Jerusalem and the final facts of our Lord’s ministry. Truth then discloses or reveals to us a particular Way of living our life that implies direction. Years ago we use to talk about such direction as “walking the straight and narrow.” Today with the plurality of truths and the pluralism that is so much descriptive of our culture and society, the truth seems far broader and at times hard to find, but Jesus invites us as evangelists to proclaim Truth and to live a particular Way which means to journey in a distinct and stated direction.
What is that Way? The Way is found in the two books that we hold as central bearers of Truth, in the Holy Scripture and in The Book of Common Prayer. It is articulated in the Catechism. It is that which we use in teaching and preparing young persons for the confirmation of their baptism in strengthening them for a life for the Way that will require a grounding in the Truth.
I share these thoughts with you because what I heard in terms of your prayer and preparation this past year moves us to a consideration on what it is to be bearers of the Truth and persons who live the Way as we go about this next year in the Decade of Evangelism. In so stating I would like to extend a specific invitation building on the invitation that I shared with you last year. The first part of that invitation has to the Truth. As the Church, be it Watertown, be it Aberdeen, be it on the Pine Ridge, be it in Sioux Fails, be it in Mission, be it in Yankton, be it in Lemmon or wherever you gather, I ask you as God’s people to be a community that shares the Truth. To be a community that shares the Truth, to be a community that has the courage and the nerve to come together as God’s people and to talk about difficult issues. To be a community of theological and moral discourse that will give guidance, specific direction and the Way to persons who feel they have lost the way or have no direction in life. Today a besetting sin in our Church, as a Church, is the excess that we sometimes experience in trying to be inappropriately inclusive. As God’s people, we include everyone but in that inclusion we say, “Follow Jesus, follow the Truth and follow the Way.” That means that not everything goes. It means there are certain habits, there are certain disciplines, there are certain authorities by which we live our lives. We live in a day and in a time that wants to reject authority, has little need for discipline and far too often extols individual freedom and independence overworking for the common good.
The Presiding Bishop, in his address to the House of Bishops two weeks ago in Washington, said that we need to move away from truths and ways of living our life that promote independence at the cost of interdependence. His call to us was a call away from private good, selfish greed and personal ambition to working for the common good, for the good of others. That is what Jesus did. Jesus was a person for others in the Truth he proclaimed and the Way he lived. He calls us to be the embodiment of Truth and that incarnation of the Way. So I charge you to go back to your congregations and share with them the need to speak a word of Truth that will help guide and direct the members of the Christian family and invite others who have lost the Way or don’t know the Way to come and be a part of the people of the Way.
The early Christians did not call themselves Christians. They called themselves Followers of the Way. That Way was Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the life of Jesus as revealing God the Father. Be courageous enough to tackle the difficult questions, the questions relating to those problems and issues that plague your community. I don’t have a laundry list of what those problems and issues are but if during this last year of prayer and preparation you have had an opportunity to define and establish some priorities regarding them, I invite you to move beyond the identification of those things to an engagement with them by virtue of the Truth.
The Church as God’s family is the location for that Way. I would invite you to look at how you live your lives as God’s people and allow that to be the basis to be a reflection on how you live your lives as individuals. What constitutes “the way” in which you spend your time? What constitutes “the way” you spend your money? How are you living the Way in terms of your relationship with your neighbor and with the environment? What behaviors, attitudes or values do you reinforce in your Church, in your family and in your own personal life? What do you say “no” to as not being life-enhancing but death-producing? The Way requires following Jesus step by step. It requires discipline as a disciple. Following the Way means that rather than being competitive I am called to a life of cooperation. Following the Way means that rather than living for myself I am called to hold the family and the Church above my own personal satisfaction and gratification. Now those are not popular ideas or practices in our day and time but popularity isn’t what we are about as God’s people. Our call to Follow the Way is a call not to be popular but a call to be faithful, faithful to the Way and to the Truth and to the L.I.F.E. So my brothers and sisters I invite you to continue your journey. This past year having prayed for this Decade of Evangelism, this past year having prepared yourself I now invite you to courageously, boldly and faithfully live a life of Truth and follow the direction of Jesus Christ as redeemer and savior in your life and as the redeemer and savior of the world.