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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Annual Address to St. David's February 6, 2011 - Full version (long)

Annual Address February 6, 2011

Annual Address February 6, 2011

Black and Yella, Black and Yella, Black and Yella, Black and Yella, Black and Yella. These are the immortal words of Pittsburgh rapper Whiz Khalifa As we prepare for the big game tonight and we cheer on the Black and Yella, I couldn’t help but think there are some lessons from the Steelers for us as we face into, on human terms, an uncertain future. Steeler nation is a nation-wide phenomena in large measure because our population declined over the years as more and more people moved away to the Sunbelt, to Texas, Arizona and Florida, to Colorado to the Washington DC area, to New York City all in search of a preferable future and of course they have remained Steeler fans creating the Steeler nation. This is not unlike the situation found in the book of Acts chapter 8. Directly following the stoning of Stephen the first Christian martyr it says, On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

That text reminds us that in times of persecution the church often thrives. Often is it scattered, that is sent forth on mission, and great things happen – there is growth, there are signs and wonders. Later in Acts we are told that the followers of Jesus “turned the world upside down” for Christ and within three hundred years the entire Roman Empire had accepted Christianity. In 1948 the Western missionaries were expelled from China. The church was outlawed and went underground. The house church movement reached millions more people for Christ than the Western.

Jesus exhorts us to "be as wise as snakes and innocent as doves" (Mt 10:16). That's a hard thing to do in many areas of our lives. But the context in which Jesus said that was in his sending out of the disciples to proclaim the Good News of his Kingdom. And in the very next verse Jesus warns his disciples to expect persecution and specifically to be handed over to the courts (Mt 10:17). Later Jesus encourages his disciples not to be afraid: "have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known." (Mt 10:26). We don't yet face the kinds of persecution many of our Christian brothers and sisters do in other parts of the world. So, as we pray concerning our troubles, let us do so with thanksgiving for all the blessings God has showered upon us and let us also pray for those in other lands who are standing up to physical persecution, even to the point of death.

So, what are we to do as, once more, we wait for legal matters to play out? For starters, I have asked outgoing Senior Warden Scott Smith to chair and staff a Task Force on the Future. The Task Force’s job will be to help us determine what to do should we lose our building, to find alternative locations and their cost. Second we most likely need to have legal counsel and advice from our diocesan Board of Trustees, we will be engaged with them. Third, one month hence on March 6 during Bishop Duncan’s visitation we will repeat today’s format --- one service, followed by brunch and a congregational meeting led by Archbishop Duncan and other members of his diocesan team. He will help us to consider our future and the direction to take and to answer any and all questions. Fourth, we are to continue on into the future as we always have in the past dependant on God.

At the Anglican 1000 conference last week in Plano TX, Archbishop Duncan reminded those of us gathered of the direction forward for the Anglican Church in North America. As the ACNA was formed just 18 short months ago its leaders developed four principles in the form of statements -- Vision, Mission, Method and Accountabilities. Let me use those same four categories as we look to the future of St. David’s.

Vision: What is the vision God has given us. We say we are, “A people for Christ, for the Kingdom of God and for the world”. And we mean it! We love Jesus and we want to spread the good news of salvation in him. We want to be Kingdom builders bringing God’s gracious rule to have impact in our lives, in our church and in our communities and its institutions. We are to be change agents transforming our environments. We love the world because God created it and placed us in it. All people are created in the image of God so we love people and we are active in striving to leave this world a better place for God’s sake and for the sake of the people he has created. We are lovers not haters.

Mission: What is our mission? We say, “our mission is to be an alive, biblically-based, liturgical church ministering to the families of the South Hills”. Our mission is not dependant on property, mortgages, buildings r “stuff”. We can accomplish this mission regardless of where we located. Our principal means of reaching families has been through our pre-school and Mothers Day Out ministry. I can’t say enough about the phenomenal work Deb Carr and the excellent staff she has assembled has done in this ministry. They are truly like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. I am sad to report Deb has concluded that God is calling her to a new and different ministry. She will be stepping out of the Directorship of the pre-school and turning the reins over to Jen Yoon. This will at the end of the current school year.

Method: Our method is the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." You have been given a “refrigerator” magnet of the Great Commission. I hope you affix this in a prominent place in your home or workplace. Use this to remind you of FRANS (friends, relatives, work associates and neighbors) that do not know Christ. Pray for them and pray for opportunities to invite them to come to church and better yet bring them yourselves.

Accountabilities: We are accountable to God, we are accountable to the Scriptures, we are accountable to His church, and we are accountable to each other. It will be three years in May since I accepted the call of Bishop Duncan and the vestry to pastor St. David’s. It is an awesome responsibility to be your spiritual leader and I take it very seriously. I strive to the best job I know how. Gale and I receive great blessing and joy from each and every one of you. It is an honor and privilege for us to be your pastors. As you know, I have cast my lot with the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Church in North America and that has not and will not change. I fully support the direction the Archbishop is leading us. I have no interest in dis-affiliating from the ACNA or in re-joining the Episcopal Church no matter enticing it may appear.

I believe God's call to us at St David’s is very clear:

• We are to keep on being a worshipping community - as we meet together on Saturdays Sundays, Wednesday and in smaller groups to worship God, to pray for the church and the world, and to encourage one another. Our Sunday worship is our window to the world. It is when most of our contact with visitors and new comers occurs. A wise man once said, “You only have one time to make a first impression”. That being so, we must be at our best on Sunday morning. I have the joy of announcing to you that a second praise and worship team under the leadership of Courtney Harter each second Sunday. This will give Lisa Miller the leader and the rest of Team One a much deserved break, one Sunday a month.

• We are to keep on equipping God's people through the faithful and fearless preaching of the Gospel, through our study of the Scriptures and as we train folks for the work of mission and ministry. It is my hope and plan to see Alpha begin once again in the spring. I also to see three home groups formed this upcoming year and to see a part time youth minster on board in the third quarter of the year. And Jim Babcock is training up the next generation of acolytes. I would be remiss if I did not give thanks for the final group of members of the vestry appointed by Bishop Duncan in 2007 – Scott Smith, Dave Zabkar and Terry Rubright. Their leadership in tough timed cannot be mentioned enough. They have had to make difficult, painful yet courageous decisions especially in the area of finances. They deserve great respect and admiration from us all.

• We are to keep on sharing Christ's healing with a broken world - at school, at work, and with our neighbors. Rege Turocy is ministering more and more through the St Luke’s Center for Compassionate Healing. Rege is also in the midst of training and deploying Lay Eucharistic Ministers and Stephens Ministers for pastoral care.

I don't want you to be afraid about what will happen at St David’s and I don't want you to worry about it. St. Paul reminds us “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” And Jesus said , "Therefore I tell you,(AP) do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

While I don’t want us to be afraid, I do want us to be realistic. We will have a tough road ahead. One of my baseball coaches used to say “when the going gets tough; the tough get going.” Are we tough enough?

Bishop Todd Hunter reminded us last week in Plano, our God is not up in heaven wringing his hands wondering; “What are we going to do now?” Our God is in control of all things. He is faithful and trustworthy. Our task is to Worship, Grow and Give - and to stay faithful in prayer. We will support one another, we will pray together and we will find an alternative space to meet if that is what’s to be. So that we can sing God's Praises and carry on being the church that we are, and whom God has called us to be.

As always your prayers for all those in leadership at St David’s: the clergy, the church staff, the pre-school and MDO staff and the vestry are so appreciated and needed. Pray too for our bishop, Archbishop Bob, and for Nara Duncan and for the Standing Committee and for all the parishes in our diocese.

On Thursday at our clergy meeting the Rev. Mike Wurschmidt of Shepherd’s Heart has encouraged the clergy of the Diocese to commit in joining Archbishop Duncan to season of fasting and prayer. I am asking each of you to join in this discipline too.

Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel. We will stand firm. And finally, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all you do be done in love."


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