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A Small Gideon Army
F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Easter V - 05/22/11 Deut. 28:1-14; Ps. 65; James 1:22-27; Jn. 16:23b-33
If we at St. Luke's are going to be anything at all, it will be just that, at least for the foreseeable future, a small Gideon army. God told Gideon to attack the Amalekites who had overrun the land. Gideon's army was already smaller than the Amalekites, but God told him to pare it down again and again. He had raised an army of 32,000, but the Lord had him pare it down to 300 to defeat the far larger Amalekite army because God did not want anybody mistaking who it was that did the defeating of the Amalekites. God was going to do it.
We are at a turning point in the life of St. Luke's Church, a time of remembering and of looking forward -- this being our last Sunday here in Waverley Chapel, with a move to the Pavilion Chapel across the street taking place beginning this Wednesday, with Evensong and prayers for the new province, the Anglican Church in North America.
I want to spend the sermon outlining what I believe to be the mission of the Church in our time and age, including the mission of St. Luke's, and what I believe to be my mission as your priest in charge. It is the mission I have felt called to for almost 50 years of ministry.
The sermon will be short, because then I hope that we will be able to have candid discussion after the service to sort out the unity among us on where we should be heading. Neither the move to the Pavilion nor the reasons for doing so are the big issue, but rather -- What is the task to which we are called as Christians today, in the circumstances of our culture?
It began for me in college when the Lord and I struck a bargain, that I wanted to be a Christian, and that He would show me that the Christian faith made good sense. Shortly after that, an event happened which had to be an act of God. A professor appeared at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, who began the religion department there. He was teaching that the Biblical worldview is the only logically consistent worldview there is. It was under his teaching that I developed those two drawings of the Biblical and the secular/pagan worldviews, which I have used ever since. That was an astonishing answer to prayer -- God sent to me the only person I have ever known who could have done for me what he did.
Another similar event happened which propelled me off to Oxford for my doctorate. A professor at General Seminary suggested that I apply to Oxford. I had no idea of going there, but on the off chance of something happening, I sent an application. My application was accepted, and again, the Lord put me under the tutelage of someone who did for me what no one else could have done. He showed me how to rewrite the cosmological argument for God in a manner which, I believe, puts that argument back as a centerpiece of Biblical theology, giving an airtight argument against the secular view of the cosmos as evolving out of a primordial something-or-other. God holds the intellectual, moral, and spiritual high ground and is inviting us to join Him there.
The Christian community in the West had fallen into deep disarray over the preceding several centuries, but God was showing me that we could recover our intellectual credibility, and on that foundation of truth, recover also our moral and spiritual credibility. We had lost our leadership in the public arena, but could get it back with a sound and credible testimony to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
It has been largely on that basis that I have said that we need a new Reformation, just as the first great Reformation of the 15- and 1600s. We need, that is, to catch up on the enormous changes which have developed since that time, and we need to deal with corruptions which have also happened during that time.
There have also been enormous blessings from God over the last several centuries -- the development of science which has affected our understanding of our own human nature, it has affected our understanding of politics, economics, psychology, sociology, and many other things which impinge on how we live our Christian lives, even theology. But many Christians have not been able to digest those new things because secularism has falsely claimed the credit for those advances -- probably none of which could have happened apart from the Biblical worldview and Gospel. The result has been Christians drifting into the backwaters of culture, with both ourselves and God being ignored as important in decision-making.
To stay a "reformed" church, we need to keep on reforming, not rest on our past laurels. Any legitimate reformation must, like the first, be built as best we can on Biblical principles, mined right from the pages of the Bible.
That has been the project of my life -- to search the Scriptures for ways to meet the challenges of our present times. The teaching from Edmond Cherbonnier, who taught me that the Biblical worldview is the only logically consistent world view, has not let me down. Time and time again, his thesis has been proven true. It did not stop with his courses at Trinity College, nor did it stop with my work at Oxford under Ian Ramsey. It has continued on unabated right to the present time. There has not been one single issue of importance in which the Biblical way of doing things has not shown itself to be superior, more human-friendly, and another part of that blessing beyond measure which we call salvation, sanctification, and the Kingdom of Heaven.
The secular and pagan worlds are not just two more "interesting options" open to the public from which to choose. They both are the disaster of the Fall, leading to self-destruction. We should be able and willing to say to pagan and secular folks that they are living in the world of the Fall, and that without the intervention of God, there is no way back out to intellectual, moral, or spiritual sanity. Truth will die, and so will we. But very few Western Christians are even thinking of saying that.
This is not primarily an "intellectual" challenge, although it is about clear thinking. Most of us do not major in intellectual things. But we all should be majoring in truth-seeking and truth-speaking. When mother asks 3-year old Johnny, "Johnny, did you put your hand in the cookie jar?" -- little squirming Johnny, who can hardly be called an intellectual, knows exactly what she is asking for -- the truth, not a lie. He knows the difference.
Truth is primarily an intuitive, experienced, and relational thing, not an abstract and intellectual thing. It has to do with how we conduct our relationships in the give and take of life. We do the truth as well as think the truth. We are all involved in truth-telling (or its opposite) no matter what our intellectual gifts or interests. God has a place for everyone of us in this project of spiritual renewal.
The Deuteronomy lesson was about the Lord's desire to bless His people, if they would obey His commandments and follow His directions.
And if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.
Dear friends, that happened right here in the United States of America. During the 1800's, people swarmed to our shores, not all of them, but many of them, because they wanted to be under our kind of government -- which was to a significant degree under God.
So my question and challenge to you, the members of St. Luke's Reformed Episcopal Church, is -- Do you want to be a part of such a reformation, a small community of devoted Christians who are learning to meet the challenges of our times with truth and grace?
We may remain small for some time. But if we intentionally work at becoming witnesses for the truth of God, if we intentionally work at getting trained to respond to the disaster that is hanging over Western Civilization, there will be growth. There are many people we pass by every day who are looking for something substantial, something which has real answers to their problems.
Still, let us work and look, not for numbers, but for the salvation of souls. God, Himself, will then, as He promised, bless us with numbers and growth.
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