Pews News Weekly
September 13, 2018
A very blessed and happy Thursday to all of you. I hope everyone is having a good week.
Men's and Ladies' Bible Studies
This Saturday, September 15 at 9 is the Men's and Ladies' Bible study. We will meet in the parish hall to discuss the essential 100 passages of the Bible. The studies have been a great time of learning, growth, and discussion of how the Lord has worked throughout history as recorded in the Holy Scriptures. If you haven't come yet, the nature of the study allows for people to jump in at any point.
We are continuing our study of the 39 - Articles of Religion during our Christian Education time. We start at 9 am before church, and it lasts about 30-40 minutes.
I will be out of town for a conference from Monday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon. The office will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and there will be no Morning Prayer on those days. We will have Evensong on Wednesday.
The fall Church Picnic is Saturday, September 22, at 10 am at Lynx Lake. This will be a great time to relax and enjoy fellowship.
Thoughts on Fellowship
This past Sunday I talked a little bit about the importance of fellowship and making long-lasting friendships which encourage our spiritual growth. I wrote a piece for the APA Newsletter which I intended to share when it was published, but I never did. So, I will share it now to give you some more fodder for thought on the subject of Christian friendship and discipleship. As space allows, I will include some more thoughts but for now:
On Christian Friendship, first published in the Ecclesia Anglicana, May 2018
In last month’s Ecclesia Anglicana the Right Reverend Robert T. Giffin expounded upon the need for our parishes to grow, especially by developing models of discipleship that lead to individuals in our congregations having a healthy and vibrant walk with Christ. One element of discipleship that we do not often talk about is friendship. There is a need for strong bonds between men and strong bonds between women to the end that we can pour out our hearts, and share our struggles and joys with each other. Altogether too often in our culture, we take the antithetical position to John Dunne’s poem and say, every man is an island. But the great poet-preacher was right – no man was created to be an island, and these rich friendships are foundational in our ability to disciple each other and grow in Christ.
As I prayed about whether I would accept the call to be the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, many issues weighed on my mind, including a fear of being alone. Moving to a parish even farther from my family, leaving behind the friendships I had established, and no longer having other APA parishes and priests as neighbors presented itself as a significant obstacle as to whether this would be a wise choice for me. In the end, Lord gave me great peace about the decision. As I’ve established myself in my little mountain city, He has blessed me with not only one, but several Godly friends, who have poured out their lives to me as I have to them.
These new friendships have led me to contemplate what it means to be a genuine, good, and Christian friend. The cultural view that surrounds us is skewed; we have twisted and downgraded why friendships are important. The culture views tell us that the other is there to hang out with and do things with so we don’t get lonely. Likewise, our culture views intimacy, which is critical to the Christian's understanding of friendship, as sexual interaction. In this view, sex is no longer intimate, and friendships no longer contain deep personal bonds. Instead, God created friendships to be intimate. We see this through scripture, God would walk in the garden with Adam and Eve, then David and Jonathan’s souls were described as being knit together, and Christ set the perfect example of friendship by laying down his life for us.
The goal of true friendship isn’t someone to hang out with to fill the aloneness, no, the goal is that we would we would encourage and strengthen each other in our walk with the Lord. For this reason, friendship is critical in discipleship.
First – when Christ has called us to leave everything behind, it isn’t to leave everything behind for nothing, but for something so much better than what the world can offer us. We can find in the world authentic friendships, fulfilling careers, and even comforting relationships, but Christ offers a better version of this. Look at the rich young ruler in Luke 18. He had it all, but Christ offered him more. The church is meant to be a place of deep relationships and familial love.
Second – the Biblical model for friendship is that the other knows our soul. The relationship between David and Jonathan models this. Too often, our culture fears this pouring out, and so modernists often insinuate that David and Jonathan were homosexuals, but this is not in the text, and in doing so, they miss out on the great lesson of true friendship. David gains so much from knowing Jonathan. Likewise, we and those whom we are genuinely friends with gain a more profound blessing from these relationships.
Third – when we call someone friend, and let them in, we model Jesus. Ultimately, a true Christian friendship isn’t meant to take the place of Christ, but to point to Christ. A friend will, inevitably, fail you, but Christ never will. For two human friends are two friends who are broken and sinful, and no matter how deeply we walk with Christ, we still have those sins that will injure the other; this is where the practice of living in grace comes in for grace must be shown here. This living in love and showing grace point us to a deeper walk with the Lord who has already called us a friend, and in doing so, He says “I have let you in, you are mine now.” We are no longer on the outside, but on the inside held close to Him through His grace.
Christian Friendship, I propose is an essential part of our model of discipleship. Asking those we walk with, in our parish, and our communities: “is it well with your soul?” or “my friend, how can I pray for you today?” begins the deeper conversations that we need to be having for the sake of the churches' health. I hope that, perhaps, you will pick up the phone and call a friend and invite him for coffee, write an old lost compadre a letter, or ask your spouse “how can I pray for you today?” You may very well be surprised by the response, and enjoy the very good fruit of Christ working in this kindness.
I hope this is helpful to clarify some of my comments from last Sunday. Ultimately, our goal as the church is to help others to grow deeper and deeper into a relationship with Christ.
I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday.
Fr. Ian Emile Dunn
All Saints Anglican Church