Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tabernacling: A Proposal for a New Anglican Holiday

I write this as our Jewish brothers and sisters begin their Feast of Booths or Sukkot. It is a period of time they remember how they wondered in the desert for forty years living in temporary and portable shelters. God was worshiped in a tabernacle that could be broken down and moved with the camp. Today in North America many Anglican congregations worship in temporary spaces that are less than ideal. But we should never forget today lest we become proud of our accomplishments tomorrow.

Today Christians in the Anglican tradition who maintain an orthodox worldview find themselves unable to live within the established Anglican provinces of North America. Some congregations voted to leave their national church only to be sued over their property draining resources for mission and making lawyers all the richer. Others voluntarily left their property turning in their keys to form a new congregation in a new space. And there are many congregations that are brand new church plants reaching the lost by putting mission first rather than building buildings. The truth is this is a great time as Anglicans have by necessity reclaimed the reason for our existence. As Archbishop William Temple once said, "The Church exists for those not in it!"

I know in the parish where I serve in the metro Atlanta area, we have gone from a dingy store front with stains on the carpet to a beautiful sanctuary rented from a Presbyterian church to our own property where a French colonial home was remodeled into a worship space. We have gone from paying rent but not free to use the time and space as we desired to a space we can call our own but now in debt to a mortgage. But it is our own to use without constraint. The goal of course is to expand the property and build a traditional Anglican church. My prayer though is we never forget the dingy store front and our journey to where we hope to arrive. The church dies when we forget our mission only to support the memorial of our faith, the church building.

This is a great time for Anglicans in North America. We are debating the essentials of the faith because we once took them for granted. We are looking at new ways to do mission and ministry. And above all we are looking to Scripture as our ultimate authority. The truth is our world is full of lost souls who need to hear the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ the Righteous. We are not taking anything for granted. And to that end, we should remember the days we tabernacled.

I am reminded of a story of man long ago in the ancient of days who was visited by God. He was overwhelmed by His glory. To remember the visit, he placed a stone on the very spot God appeared. As the man's friends passed the stone, they asked what it meant and he readily told them the story of God's appearing. That story was shared and as people heard it they came to see the spot where God appeared leaving a stone as well. A shelter was built out of the stones so that others could find the spot as well. And as years went by the story never lost it's power and people desired to stay and worship God at that very spot. Eventually a bigger building was built on top of the the original foundation to accommodate the people only to be replaced later by an even bigger building expanding the previous building used generations ago. Committees were formed to maintain the buildings. Money was raised to make them more beautiful. Soon the spot where there was a stone was dwarfed by a the largest building in the village and everyday the building was full of people. Then one day a small girl came to see why this building was the largest building in the village and why it was filled with people. And she climbed the steps and asked, "Why is this building here?" And all of the adults looked at her and at each other. And after some murmuring, one person said, "We really don't remember"

May the memories of our tabernacles of the present day keep us humble as we never lose sight of the cornerstone of our faith, Jesus Christ our Lord! (Eph. 2:19-21)