“Here, then, is the crucial question which we have been leading up to. Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in? This was exactly the question which I needed to have put to me. For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realising it, I was holding Christ at arm’s length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to [Eric Nash] for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realise that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life.” — John Stott
“The faith which the Church has proclaimed throughout the ages, embraces and coordinates a wider range of human experience, opens up more possibilities of human living and offers in the end a deeper and richer ecstasy of fulfillment than any alternative way of life and thought.” — Eric Mascall
When we see an old house we sometimes say “That house has good bones.” We mean that the house is structurally solid and strong. If you bought it, you could renovate with confidence and flair. The strength of the old house inspires confidence in the vision of the new house.
John Stott, quoted above, shared his lived experience of Christ—both his experience of “holding Christ at arm’s length” and the experience of ‘opening’ the door of the heart, mind, soul and strength. As the venerable pastor sensed in his being, that movement of faith would have “momentous consequences” for him. Indeed, the life of John Stott had ‘momentous consequences” for the Anglican Church of the 20th century and well into the 21st.
Eric Mascall also quoted above, shared his lived experience of the Anglican Church. His lived experience of the Church opened for him “more possibilities of human living and offered in the end a deeper and richer ecstasy of fulfillment than any alternative way of life and thought.”
John Stott, as many of you will know, was profoundly evangelical in his spirit, while Eric Mascall, remembered and much admired by fewer folk, was profoundly Anglo-Catholic. In a sense, you could say, they represent something of the ‘Good Bones’ of the Anglican Church.
Yet, how many of us, ‘hold Christ at arm’s length’? How many of us would claim that the Anglican Church has been experienced as “a deeper and richer ecstasy of fulfillment than any alternative way of life and thought”?
By the modest means of this column, I want to proclaim my earnest belief—not ‘offer’, as in quietly and discretely—that the Anglican Church is opening the door, in our current day and circumstance, to Christ and to a ‘deeper and richer ecstasy of fulfillment.’
It has never been easier to see Christ ‘at work’ in our Communion and it has never been easier to contrast what we see in the world with what we see in ‘our Church.’ Of course, it is not ‘our’ Church… it is God’s Church!
In a strange way, the COVID-19 pandemic has been part of this unfolding revelation. I have a colleague who spent a continuous three hours on the car phone calling shut-in parishioners. I know for a fact the continual offering of prayer that our concern one for another has inspired—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But is not just the COVID-19 pandemic. As one priest-to-be told me recently, “Our folks are famished for God.” He was speaking of the 25-35 age bracket who are coming to a 6:30am service of a quiet Morning Prayer—twice a week—and a liturgical offering of Evening Prayer—three times a week. Another priest-to be told me of her secular business group quietly asking for Bible study.
I also see this uprising of graced longing in our bold entry into controversy as we proclaim that all people are made in the divine image. As community in Christ, we are making it clear that we prefer to stand alongside, not over and against, the de-colonization of our hearts, souls, minds and bodies as we proclaim the love of Christ for all peoples. We are not the embodiment of imperial power. We are the body of Christ.
I see the stirrings of the Holy Spirit in the awakening of the mystical dimension of our sojourn in Christ. This awakening of the inspired longing for a meaningful spiritual practice is the stirring of the awareness that we cannot command God to be this or that. We are not called to be prophets of national or personal self-interest. We are called to be disciples and apprentices of Christ. Like Martha’s sister Mary, we are called to choose “the better part,” to listen to Christ. How do we do that? This is what we are yearning—even pleading—to know!
The Anglican Church has never been better ‘positioned’ to offer the wisdom, which over the ages, it has received. We have never been in a better position to offer Christ, in practice, in sacrament, in lives of living testimony to the transformative blessing of life in the Risen Christ.
The ‘stripping down’ of the last few years has in fact been good for us. It is ongoing. And it is deepening.
Our Church has good bones. Our ‘old house’ is strong. We can, with God’s help, build the ‘new house’.