Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Sixth Sunday After Trinity

(We continue our comments on the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church, the long prayer found on page 74 in the Prayer Book.)

The third paragraph clearly states what the total ministry of the Church is, as well as the special ministry of the clergy: to “set forth God's true and lively Word,” the Biblical Gospel, and to “rightly and duly administer” the sacraments of Jesus Christ.

That phrase “rightly and duly” means many things. Among these meanings is that the sacraments must only be administered by the Apostolic ministry created and commissioned by the Lord of the Church Himself. The sacraments cannot be “rightly and duly” administered by a ministry which is self-appointed, or by some novel ministry, such as priestesses, created by a heretical church.

These two functions, Word and Sacrament, expresses clearly what the Church does. Any activity of the Church must be measured by that yard-stick. Frequently we have seen the Church quite involved in all kinds of things which have little to do with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and which are anything but channels of God's grace. The current fascination with global warming (now called climate change) is just one of many examples.

But more profoundly, those two functions state precisely what the Church is in her essential being. As the Articles of Religion tell us, “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same” (BCP p. 606). So in this petition, we are praying that we, as the Church, may prove faithful in our Divinely given functions and ministry. We may state this more bluntly: it is necessary to pray simply that the Church continue to be the Church.

(To be continued.)

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