by Patriarch Craig Bates
27 June 2021
Foundation Day began early in the life of the CEC. To celebrate the Patriarch and our founding, it was decided, on the Sunday closest to the consecration of our first bishop, to would take a thanksgiving offering for our Communion and for him. Abp. Adler, a man of generosity – a giver, not a taker – wouldn’t accept it as a personal gift, but established the Foundation Day Fund to buy land and to buy or restore buildings around the world. We would be a Communion led by the Spirit, a people who recognize that God wants us to be in space, place and land, that God wanted to give us a land, and land throughout the world. We’ve purchased many properties and churches and renovated buildings, all for God’s glory. In doing this, we’re laying a foundation for the future: we’re called to be a people of the future, who look for the future and for the coming of the Lord, not only in heaven but here on earth.
Living for the future: living in love
I learned most about this when my wife and I had our first child. My concerns as a young man had to do with my own future and what I was going to do: would I go to college, would I work as a psychologist, and where and how? When I got married, it became not my future but our future together, and part of that was having children. It’s God’s plan to have children: they’re not an inconvenience, they don’t interrupt the plan or make it harder – children are a blessing from the Lord; they are the plan. When we had our first child, suddenly my concern became not living for my future or our future, but for his future: somehow life would find meaning in living for another person. God wanted this, because in it we would be taught how to love.
Love is living for another; it’s surrendering our will to God’s will to love. It began a journey for me to understand what Jesus was talking about when He said, pick up your cross daily and follow Me. The cross wasn’t my wife, my son or my family – it was my selfish will that I had to crucify. I had to die to that self-will from when I was young, and now live into God’s will to live for another. Having children, and having children around me, especially at the Eucharist, taught me that God is calling each of us out of that selfishness into selflessness. The Holy Spirit was changing my mind from “What can I get out of life?” to “How can I live and put into the lives of those around me?”
Children are a gift from God: they teach us not only to live for others, but to live in hope of a future. In our children’s eyes, we see a future, something greater than what we have now: a future that’s not in the tyranny of the past. If we look at our past, there are things we could or should have done better, and of which we say that if we could live again we would do better; but we can’t do any of that. We need to eliminate “could have”, “should have” and “would have” from our thought life, because the enemy wants to bring them up and bring us to self-loathing and self-hatred, and to fear, depression and hopelessness. God has opened for each of us a way to deal with the past: bringing it to the cross and receiving His forgiveness, then having God restore us to all righteousness and push us on our way into the future. We’re called to repent, confess and trust God. We need to stop talking about our “sin identity”, and talk about our “freedom identity”. Instead of talking about the sins of our fathers and of the Church, we need to receive God’s forgiveness. If we remain in the past, we deny the power of the Cross and the Resurrection, and the hope it brings to live and press on. Forgetting what lies behind, I take hold of that which has taken hold of me, and I press on.
Our future is a “yes and amen” from God: each of you will be blessed to see your inheritance. God has an inheritance for you, and it will grow into generations. I’m watching my grandchildren go through high school, and next year my oldest grandchild will graduate; she’s already talking about her plans for college and her future, and so are the younger ones – even the two-year old, who wants to be a fireman. All of that is about the future; and we will see the future – that’s the promise of the Lord.
If the Lord returns before then, we’re asked, will He find us living by faith? Jesus said, “Will I find faith on earth?” Jesus wants to find a people giving not reluctantly but generously to that future, loving boldly, forgiving our offenders, seeking forgiveness for ourselves, living for others, as individuals; and especially living for others as a church – to be churches in the midst of our community who’ll be known for our love: a church that blesses our elderly and doesn’t kill our pre-born, and brings up our children in the knowledge and love of God. Will He see us walking in fear or faith? Will He see us in bitterness, despair, hostility, quarrelsome, causing division, or pursuing love with everything we have? Will the CEC be a force for unity or division?
Celebrate God’s presence
As we come to Foundation Day, we take an offering; but, more importantly, it’s a day to give thanks for the mighty river that is with us. God has called us not to be a new, revised version of something else, but the universal, ancient, historic move of the Church, which is fully charismatic, evangelical and sacramental-liturgical. We have a vision, and our bishops and pastors are leading us to do it, because they love us and they love God. They want to bring people into the presence of Jesus; and we need to thank them for that leadership, which sometimes is difficult for them. Every time we come together, we need to be overcome by the Lord’s presence, thankful for the worship teams and music ministries that help us to lift up holy hands and sing in the Spirit, to dance before the Lord with flags and banners, and to come to the Eucharistic tables that have been set by the deacons and acolytes and prepared by the altar guilds and all who serve… to come into the presence of God, knowing Jesus is in our midst.
I remember sitting in a church forty years ago, and suddenly we began to sing,
“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place:
I can see His mighty power and His grace;
I can hear the sounds of angels; I see glory on each face:
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”
Let’s open ourselves to His presence and give generously to His work, the work Jesus has called each of us to do.
Father, move in the power of Your Spirit upon the churches; move upon the people, especially the little children. Bless those who are leading us in worship. Let us dance before the Lord and sing in His presence. Move in our hearts: let the fire of the Holy Spirit burn, let the wind come, let the walls rattle, that we would surely know we’re in the presence of Jesus. Amen.