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"Stay in the Boat...." - by David Roseberry

"Stay in the Boat...." - by David Roseberry

By David Roseberry

NOTE: This sermon was preached on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of our founding as a mission and then as a parish Christ Church, Plano a year later. The text I selected was the well known text of Matthew 8:23. Jesus gets into the boat to cross to the other side of the lake. A storm arises...and the disciples, in fear of their lives, awaken Jesus with a cry for help. My first point was that we need to "Get in the Boat" with Jesus as he calls us forward in mission. And my second and final point was that when the going get tough and the storm moves in, we have to bail water, call upon him, but no matter what, "Stay in the Boat". This is the second half of the sermon and outlines where we are....

"No matter what happens and what seems to come at us, we need to stay in the boat. The Texas saying is "you dance with the one that brung you." It is the same principle. If you are following Jesus on to the boat...you stay with Jesus in the boat...even if he appears to be sleeping!

We have seen storms hit our church from time to time. They have been scary and very taxing from time to time. Often is has been about money. We have overstretched our budget or the local economy has been hard. But the needs of the church and its ministry have continued...in fact they have escalated every year. And we have seen the storms of doubt and fear and worry come upon us...but we have stay in the boat, gotten on our knees and prayed loud enough to wake up the Lord! And he has been faithful...for 20 years in a row. Praise God.

But there is another storm around us that you already know about. None of us can be exempted from this storm and it is hitting everything and everywhere in our lives. It is the storm modernity, of secular humanism that is swamping the boat and scaring the disciples. It is the storm of a culture and a time of great rebellion against God and great faithlessness and godlessness in our day. One need only to pick up a newspaper, attend a movie, watch television, or read modern fiction to see the effects of our godless culture. This is the storm we are in and it doesn't seem to be subsiding at all.

The bible tells us that the disciples were hit by this storm suddenly. Other accounts of the same story tell us that they bailed water feverishly but to no avail. Then, in an act of desperation, they screamed so loud that they woke Jesus up. The cried out to him in anguish and fear, "Save us, Lord. Don't you know that we are going to drown?" This is the call on our lives...to call upon Christ Jesus in our great moments of doubt and fear...but always to stay in the boat.

But now we come to a dilemma we can't avoid as we speak about the future of Christ Church. We are an Anglican church by our heritage and an Episcopal Church by our birth. But the Episcopal Church leadership, in the middle of the great storm or secularism around us, is getting out of the boat! They are actually charting a new course and trying to make it on their own. The have jumped into modernity feet first and have left the rest of the Christian Church behind. The Episcopal Church now teaches the same sexual lie that the culture is teaches namely, that any kind of sexual union is holy and right before God if two people love each other, male to male, female to female, male to female and vice versa. It is thought and taught among our elected leadership that the Biblical call of celibacy and monogamous marriage is an old code of conduct that was right for a pre-modern people...but does not apply in today's world.

But, friends, this is just the beginning of the accommodation of the Episcopal Church to the cultural storm around us. More compromises and concessions will come most assuredly.

This past week the Anglican Communion, at the Anglican Consultative Council officially disassociated itself from the actions and teaching of the Episcopal Church. In effect, they suspended the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. Our national Episcopal leaders are no longer welcomed at a church gathering with international bishops like our friends Bishop Bill Godfrey or Bishop Ben Kwashi. Given a chance to retreat from their direction and given an opportunity to explain their thinking, the leaders of the Episcopal Church instead remained defiantly proud of their actions and promised to fully embrace the modern sexual practices of our culture.

Now you see our dilemma. Christ Church is an Episcopal Church but we cannot go where the Episcopal Church is going. To do so would compromise the biblical values of our congregation and the teaching of our historic faith. To follow where they are leading would be to leave not just the Anglican Communion, but the Christian faith itself. To follow the Episcopal Church forward on their path would be to get out of the boat that Jesus is in, and has been in for 2000 years, and try to make it on our own.

Our congregation's mission is to make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of Christ. And over the last 20 years we have made many disciples. Year by year we baptize more people than any other Episcopal church. Year by year we receive more members than any other Episcopal church. And we have become the most attended Episcopal Church in the country. I say this not with pride but because it has awakened me to a sad truth. I now have the clear understanding that the Episcopal Church and Christ Church are on two different tracks. We both are observing a 'next chapter' moment. For the national church, their next chapter will be all alone, out of the boat, in a full embrace of the culture. For us, we will cling to Christ and the faith he taught his apostles and the heritage he is using around the world to seek and save the lost...as many of us here can attest to very personally.

While we are a congregation born under the Episcopal Church, we are not now a franchise of the Episcopal Church in any national sense of the word. We do not send people, program, or money to the denominational headquarters. We do support our bishop. He is my father in God. He is a man of deep and abiding faith. He is staying in the boat too. However, both he and I know that a new arrangement and a new alignment are not only inevitable, but necessary given what we see.

So let me be clear and direct. We will not move forward with the Episcopal Church into the future it has imagined. Rather, we will seek to remain connected to the worldwide Anglican Church. This will take some time to work out...and after the summer break I will ask our church to begin a season of prayer and fasting for the decisions that lay ahead.

So our future is bright...and God be with us...it will be faithful to Jesus Christ. I will outline our vision this afternoon at the celebration. But you can know now that we will stay in the boat and stay close to Jesus Christ. We will call and cry out to him much like his disciples did. We will ask him to touch our culture and heal our land. He may tarry...he is the Lord...he may even appear to us to be asleep. But, as Psalm 121 says, "he who keeps watch over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." In the mean time, we will forge new links with other Anglicans to 'reboot' Anglicanism in North America he may tarry...he is the Lord...but we will not leave him or his word. Instead, we will forge new links in Anglicanism for North America.

So, my friends, this call to the boat means quite a bit in our circumstance. We get in the boat and when the going gets tough...the tough stay put. And the end of the story is the real lesson. The disciples learned, through their really bad and scary time, that Jesus was not just a man...he was not just a moral teacher or even miracle worker. Jesus was the one who could control the elements of creation...and bring order from chaos. He is not only the one in the boat...but he is the man from heaven, the Lord of all creation.

You don't really learn that in a classroom. You don't learn that on a mountain top either. You don't learn that in the quiet and lovely times that we all pray for. You only learn that in the terror of the night or the brunt of the storm. You learn that only when all else fails and you are alone, against the elements, and you turn to Jesus, whom you hope is still there with you...and you cry out to him.

How often I have seen that too at Christ Church. It wasn't only in our beautiful sanctuary that people discover that Jesus is Lord...it is in the hospital room and the funeral home and the lawyers office and the small group and the dinner table and the bible study...anywhere and everywhere that people cry out to the Lord of all Creation..."

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!!

The Rev. David Roseberry is the rector of Christ Church, Plano, Texas

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