ONWARD CHRISTIAN TORTOISES...(An article for the AFR Canada Magazine)
I have just had the privilege of ‘attending’ my first General Synod by Internet. Thanks to Anglicans like Tod Maffin and Fr. Ron Barnes, I was able to dial into Anglinet(1-604-944-0622 or 878-0466) each night and receive a totally up-to-date description of the day’s proceedings. Even by E-mail, one becomes quickly aware of the deceptive ambiguity of some seemingly innocuous General Synod motions.
Our Sophia Which art in Heaven???
As I was e-mailing into General Synod, I was reminded of the late Canon David Watson’s best-selling book "One in the Spirit", where he quoted a humorous adaptation of "Onward Christian Soldiers": "Like a mighty tortoise Moves the Church of God; Brothers we are treading Where we’ve always trod; We are all divided, Many bodies we; Very strong on doctrine, Weak on charity." I can tell you honestly that ever since the plans to eliminate certain historic hymns, our parish has sung "Onward Christian Soldiers" with a new charismatic joy and life to it. With the inclusion of syncretistic hymns in the new General Synod hymnbook (using concepts like "Strong mother God" "Mother, brother, holy partner" "Womb of life" and "Welcome Great Sophia"), I am wondering (only half-jokingly) how long it will be until a new organization emerges, entitled The Blue Hymn Book Society of Canada. Thank God for overhead projectors!!
In some ways, General Synod reminded me of the parable of the live frogs. If you throw a live frog into boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put a frog in lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, it will never notice that it is being boiled to death. In reality, General Synod ‘95 was just a warm-up for the next one. The Lord showed me a vision of Iraqi soldiers setting the Kuwait oil wells on fire. He told me that there is a real danger that much damage may be done to the Canadian Anglican Church, before its restoration to dynamic orthodoxy.
New Wine-and-Cheese Parties...
David Watson ( who led me into charismatic renewal) prophetically spoke back in 1973, commenting on the feverish activity to reorganize the Church. "Many Christians today", said Watson, "are weary of reports, reforms and reunion schemes, discussions, dialogues and debates. We spend our time talking to ourselves while the world plunges headlong into suicide and despair. And it is in this context that the primary need for a dynamic spiritual renewal by the Holy Spirit of God becomes obvious and urgent. We lack the fire and passion which has always been the mark of the Spirit’s presence." Watson quoted John Capon who observed how many of us "will always find deeply convincing reasons for playing it safe, remaining open-ended, instituting a dialogue, exploring in depth, setting up a commission, running a pilot scheme, circulating a paper, doing some research - in fact anything rather than go out on to the streets of Jerusalem drunk with the Spirit, and showing others how."
One of the most encouraging things about the current outpouring of the Holy Spirit is that many Anglicans are recovering the fire and passion that is sending them back to the streets, drunk with the new wine of the. Spirit. True spiritual warfare always ends us back on the streets. David Watson clearly saw that "it is only the Holy Spirit who can quench the deepest thirst of the human heart, because it is only the Holy Spirit who can show us the beauty of Jesus and fill us with the love of God. Indeed, when we have drunk this glorious living water, it will spoil our thirst for everything else." David Watson gave us a word-to-the wise a few years before his death: "The church of the New Testament must never forget its role as the army of God. Paul urged Timothy to ‘share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’...In every age we are to ‘fight the good fight of the faith’; and perhaps more than ever that is true of this age."
Fighting not against Flesh and Blood...
Rev. Murray Henderson, Rector of St. Aidan’s Winnipeg and Director of our ARM Canada LTIs (Leadership Training Institutes), commented at Renewal Mission ‘95 in Vancouver that "the topic of spiritual warfare is a tremendously timely one in our lives, in our churches, and in the Anglican Church of Canada." Indeed, to eliminate the spiritual warfare imagery from our Bibles would require a major gutting of God’s Holy Word.
True spiritual warfare involves both a renunciation of individualism and physical violence, as well as a corporate taking up of the weapons of prayer and intercession. I thank God for the Anglican Church Army, of which Bishop Malcolm Harding is the Episcopal Visitor, who remind us of the appropriateness of such biblical imagery. Murray Henderson began the Renewal Mission with a moving prayer: "We come here, Lord, precisely to be formed into an army, and we confess, Lord, that your church is a pretty, rag-tag looking army by anybody’s standards...it’ doesn’t look as if we have a commander-in-chief much of the time..." Murray commented that "...it’s absolutely vital that we not get rid of the language of spiritual warfare in the New Testament." Rather "we need to say to our brothers and sisters who are upset by the language of spiritual warfare: ‘Take a look at this verse: We do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world...’ ( 2 Cor. 10:3)". Murray powerfully reminded us of the commissioning for spiritual warfare right within our Baptismal and Confirmation liturgies. Why bother with Confirmation?, asks the Anglican Prayer Book: "In order that by prayer and laying on of hands they may be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, manfully(i.e. boldly) to fight under the banner of Christ crucified, against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants unto their life’s end."
...Sowing with Tears
One of the spiritual weapons in Renewal is the anointing of holy tears. John Bunyan, who is famous for the best-selling book Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote another allegory in 1682 entitled Holy War. One of his allegorical persons was Mr. Wet-Eyes, who symbolically reminds us of Jesus’ beatitude: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." It is interesting to note that Mr. Wet-Eyes didn’t trust in his own tears, saying "I see dirt in mine own tears, and filthiness in the bottom of my prayers."
Alexander Whyte commented about Mr. Wet-Eyes: "As you come down the Old and New Testaments, you will be astonished and encouraged to find how prevailing a fountain of tears always is with God. David with his swimming bed; Jeremiah with his head waters; Mary Magdalene over His feet with her welling eyes; Peter’s bitter cry all his life long as often as he heard a cock crow, and so on....The best words, the words that the Holy Ghost Himself teaches, if they are without tears, will avail nothing...Words weary Him, while tears overcome and command Him. God inhabits the tears of Israel." Murray Henderson noted: "I know that some of you have wept for the state of the church today, for its integrity, for its proclamation of the gospel which is so often compromised...We do need to sit down and grieve and mourn and fast and weep for this church of ours. And I believe that if we do that, we will be able to be part of the rebuilding that belongs to God."
...Reaping with Songs of Joy
A second spiritual weapon is holy joy. When the words PARDON, PARDON, PARDON, PARDON were declared in Bunyan’s Holy War book, "no one could sleep that night for joy. In every house there was joy and music, singing and making merry: telling and hearing of their happiness..." As Bunyan shows, holy joy should be the norm, not the exception in our Christian life. In response to Jesus forgiveness, said Bunyan, they "ran up upon the walls of the town and leaped and skipped thereon for joy, and bowed themselves seven times with their faces towards Emmanuel’s (Jesus’) pavilion, and shouted aloud for joy, and said, "Let Emmanuel live forever!" Then order was given to the young men... that they should ring the bells for joy. So the bells did ring, and the people sing, and the music sound in every house..." David Watson also recommended this spiritual weapon, pointing the Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, a victim of Soviet religious persecution, as an example. "Alone in my cell", wrote Richard Wurmbrand, " cold, hungry, and in rags, I danced for joy every night...Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt that I would burst if I did not give it expression."
Lying Down in Green Pastures...
Resting in the spirit is another manifestation of spiritual warfare, described in Bunyan’s Holy War: "Now the prisoners, when they did hear the gracious words of Prince Emmanuel and had beheld all that was done unto them, fainted almost quite away. For the grace, the benefit, the pardon, was sudden, glorious, and so big that they were not able, without staggering, to stand up under it.. Yes, my Lord Willbewill swooned outright; but the Prince stepped up to him, put his everlasting arms under him, embraced him, kissed him, and bid him be of good." John Bunyan reminds us that resting in the spirit and holy joy are nothing new. They are merely outer and visible symbols of inner and spiritual experiences of God’s grace.
Feed Me ‘til I Want no More
John Bunyan’s Holy War also shows us that regular healthy food is vital in spiritual warfare: "...upon the feasting-day, the townsfolk were come to the castle to partake of his banquet...And so there was dish after dish set before them, and they were commanded freely to eat. But still, when a fresh dish was set before them, they would whisper to each other, "What is it?" for they knew not what to call it. They drank also of the water that was made wine and were very merry with him." This passage reminded me of a prophecy that God gave me during a time of intercession: I saw two offertory plates, one on top of the other, with two slices of bread on them. I immediately thought: "What is bread doing there, when there is supposed to be money?" I asked God what this meant. God said to me: "I am now offering my bread of life to you on my offertory plate. I am now feeding you. Just feed on me. I am more generous than you." So often we think of what we can offer to God; yet here the focus was on what God was offering to us. Just last summer, God said to me: "You have done everything for me, except rest in me."(Matthew 11:28). May God release a new level of spiritual warfare in the Anglican Church of Canada, that will cause us to rest in and feed on the Lord Jesus, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Amen.
The Reverend Ed Hird
Past National Chair, ARM Canada
Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church
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