The ANNUNCIATOR NOVEMBER 2014 Church of the Annunciation, Ottawa
Back in the early 1980s, I remember reading an interview with the Rev. Terry Fullam, an Anglican priest who was very much in the forefront of renewal in the Episcopal church in the United States at that time. He was asked about how one is to find God’s will. He responded by saying that, while there is no simple formula, he was convinced that the first step is that one be willing to obey that will once it is discerned. That is, the seeking cannot be simply to have one more perspective to consider in making an informed decision; it must be to discover what one ought to do and TO DO IT. God’s will is the perfect will, the best thing to do in the context of eternity; it is that for which we are made.
Some of you will remember my sharing, a number of weeks ago in the Sunday sermon, some words which came to me at the end of a time of waiting, listening and praying before the Blessed Sacrament. I had turned to my Bible, with a mind to re-read the story of Gideon. “Joshua”, came the interior direction. “No, no,” I said to myself, “Gideon is in Judges.” Yet, still I found myself opening the Bible at Joshua 13. There I read of Joshua’s advanced age—even the LORD reminded him of that—which recalled the fact that only he and Caleb remained of that original generation which had come out of Egypt, the only two permitted to enter into the Promised Land, a reward of which even Moses had fallen short.
Joshua was exhorted to finish what he had been given to do: finish the division of the Land, and the settlement of the tribes, each in its given territory. The next several chapters detail his subsequent actions in carrying out that charge, then in Chapter 24, he calls the people together in order to remind them, first of all that the LORD has done for them, then to set before them that crucial decision which they must make, one which he and his household had made decades earlier: “…choose this day whom you will serve, [if you be unwilling to serve the LORD ] whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
“Of course,” they respond at once, “We will serve the LORD!” But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD; for He is a holy God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” Joshua 24:16-20 In effect: You cannot do this unless it’s whole-hearted. If you “set your hand to the plow”, then turn back, the consequences will be far greater than had you never taken it up at all. You cannot play at being God’s people; you must give yourselves completely or not at all. And the people said to Joshua, “Nay; but we will serve the LORD.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” vs. 21-22 Then Joshua continues by giving stern and clear direction, “Then put away the foreign gods which are among you, and in-cline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” v.23
It struck me, as I have reflected upon these words since, that we have in our midst a handful of people who have been here from the beginning, who came out of “Egypt”, as it were—the ACC—and “tented” their way through living rooms and rented halls, until they came into this physical church building, and finally, with building and the new “wilderness-born” generation, onto the rock foundation and full Communion of the Catholic Church. They have demonstrated their devotion and sacrifice, offered to the Lord and tried in the fires of pilgrimage. They have led by faithful, longsuffering witness, and they need now to seek what more is theirs to perform as we settle into this new territory. Surely one thing is to remind us of God’s faithfulness throughout the years, and then to exhort us all to let go of all that is not focused first and foremost in our following of Jesus—there can be no room for “foreign gods” in our midst. .And [Jesus] said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? Luke 9:23-25
“No problem.” we might say, even as the Israelites did, “We don’t worship idols and have no intention of following the gods of those around us.” Yet, any one of us who has seriously worked through the Ten Commandments in a rigorous examination of conscience in preparation to make his or her confession, will know what it is to be brought up agonizingly short by the number of rival deities which emerge, each vying for first allegiance in thought, word or deed. Does my heart, my mind, my will seek first “What do You require of me, Lord?” and then desire, think and act upon what I discern of His answer; or do I hesitate, become distracted, or outright choose some other direction altogether? Why? Whatever motivates a contrary choice is the rival deity, the higher priority, the “foreign god”; we MUST RENOUNCE and put all of these away—better yet, renounce them, disarm them by the Precious Blood of Jesus, bind them up and cast them out for Him to take wherever He has prepared! Only then can we really say, “Lord, we give unto Thee permission to have Thy will with us, in this church, in our homes and families, in all our relations with others—in all our thoughts, words and actions—and in all of our daily affairs.” and truly mean it.
In Christ Jesus, our Lord and our God,