A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By The Rev. Paul Edwards
"If you come to this church your life will be transformed." The Church has it right. Transformation is at the core of congregational development. In this perspective the definition of transformation is the ability to access the Presence of the Godhead any time, any place and under any conditions. The Presence of the Godhead abides in us. Col.2:9 God is working in us, Phil.2:13. "Christ in us the hope of glory," Col. 1:27 The Holy Spirit is in us. I Cor.3:16 In Christ we have Peace, John 16:33, a Joy no one can take from us, John 16:22 and God Who is Love. I John 4:7 The Wisdom of the Spirit guides us in all truth. John16:13 When we discover how to access the Presence of God's Peace , Joy Love, we will have the Wisdom to operate at a higher level then when we are out of the Presence and feeling insecure, unhappy and unloved.
Transformation is a sanctifying process rather than a single event. I Cor.1:2. This grace always abides in us. We do not always abide in the grace. How we access the Presence is simple. There are two things that exist, the physical seen and the spiritual unseen. We have two faculties, the rational head and the conscious heart. The head sees the seen and the heart senses the unseen. We cannot sense the unseen from the head. We need to open our heart to be able to focus on the spiritual Presence within.
It makes a difference in whether we are thinking "what" or "how" to come to Jesus. When Christians are asked "how" they get transformed by accessing the Presence, most will tell you such things as they take communion, pray prayers, sing praise hymns or go on retreats. The point is, you can be stuffed with Eucharistic bread, and not be in communion. You can pray prayers, and not pray, sing praise hymns and not praise and go on retreats and get nothing out of them. These exercises are not "how" you do it, They are "what" you do. Telling people to "Let go and let God," "Put God first," "Give it to Jesus" are "what" to do, but now "how" to do it. Experiencing The Presence when we pray, take communion, read Scripture, go on retreats, etc., is because we have consciously or unconsciously opened our hearts to His Presence. If the movement is not done, the exercise will not work. The exercise is constructed to enable people to make the movement out of the rational head and into the conscious heart.
Here is a simple way to practice "how." Insight comes by working on it. As you are reading this material, become conscious of things around you, like the temperature or lighting. Become conscious of some nearby object. As you feel its presence, you are touching the untouchable. The moment you felt the presence you did something different from you were doing just a moment ago. Get a feel for what you did when you chose to become conscious of your surroundings. This is what is meant by "opening your heart." It is the difference between what is called "head" and "heart", rational and conscious,
When you are experiencing the presence of anything else, begin to focus on the Presence of the Spirit of the Godhead within which is closer than anything else around you. It is the Spirit of the Love of God that was "shed abroad in our hearts." His Love is always in us. Wonder what difference does it make to you when you are in or out of His Love when you are dealing with a difficult issue? If you discover the difference it is because of "how" you did it not "what" you did.
FROM FISH MARKET TO FISHING HOLE: If you think about it, you may be shocked to discover you probably have never heard any Christian preach, teach or write on how to access the Presence. A Diocese announces to the people, "Come to Church and have your life transformed," Yet the Church is not teaching people how to become transformed by accessing the Presence anytime, anywhere and under any condition. The Church is like a fish market. A fish market sells fish. It would never think of teaching people how to fish, lest they would not come back to buy fish. The Church teaches, come to us and we will give you "what" you are looking for, the chance to have communion with God. We will give you the Eucharist, or absolution or we can sing hymns, preach sermons and pray prayers to get you into communion with God. This is "what" to do. Just don't expect us to tell you "how" to do it. The threat of the Church is, if we ever teach people "how" to become transformed any place and under any condition, that is how to fish, the people would no longer come back to the fish market.
Just think, they may not come back to a fish market but they would go to a good fishing hole. The Church in the coming century must become a "fishing hole Church," if we get to the point where we to teach people how to fish. If we become the best fishing hole in the community, we will attract the best fishermen. A fishing hole Church is where people can come together and share "how" the did it in the past week. They will encourage, support and inspire one another and want to bring others to fish with them. When this happens the Episcopal Church will no longer be called the "Sleeping Giant." It will be the Transforming Church. Here we come!
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