Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone
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Praying Shapes Believing

By now, you have probably seen that there has been some unfortunate and painful things going on in the Anglican Mission (AMiA) this week.  I don’t like seeing these problems.  I find them disturbing, saddening, and maddening.  Yet I am not surprised by them.  Oh, I am surprised by the specific problems, but I am not surprised to see sin, misunderstanding, and possibly down right power politics in the Body of Christ.  Why am I not surprised?  Because I see these things in myself, in my own heart and soul.

I know that I am a sinner.  Not a “sinner” in quotation marks.  A real sinner, a person who was born sinful and who actualizes sin in my daily life.  I also believe that human sinfulness is evenly distributed.  Everyone I know is a sinner, just like me. 

As a Christian I have somewhere to go with this reality.  “Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)  As I recognize the reality of my sinfulness, I am driven to give glory to God in Christ who alone sets me free. 

As an Anglican, I have a way to live this out in worship.  During the Advent season we begin our Eucharistic liturgies (our Communion services) with a reading of the Law.  We then remember that we have broken the Law; we then pray a prayer of contrition.  What a way to start a service near Christmas: “here is God’s Word, recognize that you have broken it, now repent!”  But that is one way that we live out the Spirit's word to us in Romans.  We look at reality square in the face and this drives us to our knees (literally). 

Later in our liturgy we say this prayer “Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.  Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer.”  This is especially meaningful to me this week.  Right now, in our part of Anglicanism, we are not united, we are not living together in love, and we are not revealing Christ’s glory in the world.  So what do we do?  Fix it?  Cover it up?  Make it go away? I hope not!  Instead, we say “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.”  May we seek the Lord and his mercy.  He is our only hope right now, as he has always been. 

Later still, in the Great Thanksgiving, we say “Father, almighty and ever living God, at all times and in all places it is right to give you thanks and praise.”  This is an important way to remember this reality.  At all times, God is worthy.  In all places, he deserves our praise.  In all things, he deserves our thanks.  Even when the people we rely on don’t seem to be holding it together very well.  Even when things look pretty darn bad.  Maybe especially then. 

In Great Tradition churches we have a saying: Lex orandi, lex credendi.  It means  "the law of prayer is the law of belief.”  Essentially, what we pray shapes what we believe.  If being an Anglican means being part of our particular organization, this is not a good week to be an Anglican.  But if it also means to be formed by the liturgy?  Then I’m so grateful to be an Anglican, because in this tradition I have a wealth of resources to point both myself and my church to Jesus even in the midst of trying times.  May we be shaped by our prayers this week, and may we find ourselves falling at the feet of the Coming King.

(Let me say I know that this whole Anglican conflict may not be of any interest to you.  I hope that you might see this as an example of how, through worship, the Gospel becomes more relevant as we confront any difficulty in our lives).