I am often intrigued by the use of the word Reverends. Priests are usually styled as "the Reverend", bishops are styled as "the Right Reverend". Archbishops are styled as "the Most Reverend". The word reverend comes from the root "to be revered" or "deserving reverence" perhaps because of their position or they are being in Holy Order of prieshood separated from Man to God. However, "reverend" only appears once in Ps 111.9 referring to God actually and not man. The discples refused to be revered because they know that they are mere men compared to God's Holiness and Reverence. And when we take some of the reverence away from God and dictate ourselves an Holy aura of inffalability, we sometimes fancy ourselves to be like God and deciding who can enter the church and heaven itself. We often equate being religious or doing the religious things as Holy People, but true Holiness lies not by our outward religious actions but the state of our heart where no one sees.
On Sydney 03 Feb 2008.. Led by the Archbishop of Sydney, the most Rev Peter Jensen, a total of 5 Australian Bishops planned to boycott the Lambeth Conference, planned for July 20 to 03 Aug 2008, in Canterbury, London. The conference is a gathering of Anglican Bishops held once every 10 years which has now seen an exodus of conservative bishops from Africa and Asia over the ordination of an openly gay man, the Rev Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church. The conservative bishops planned to organize a rival conference in June, in Jerusalem. This may historically mark a schism of the Anglican Church of which so much of the Protestant faith has its roots in the foundation of the church by Henry the Eight in 1534. Although it seems that the Gay issue is the cause of this apparent split, the root of the issue concerns Holiness. When Holiness defined as being set apart for God, taken to the extreme, it was deemed immoral and unholy to be associated with gays whom they perceived as the epitome worldliness. Therefore for the apparent sake of holiness and to flee from worldliness, we are looking at the end of 450 years of the movement of God.
There is a great misconception for Christians, of what it means to be Holy, and Worldly. We are considered Holy it seems when we avoid the worldly - which includes having liquor, going to the Pub, going to the Discos, watching Movies or Television, having long hair for guys, dressing promiscuously, and lastly associating with those whom we consider immoral - the prostitutes, Gays, and criminals. Today's sermon is examining what the bible has to say about Holiness and Worldliness,
Our text for today is taken from, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17,
The Anglican Church in Sydney, Singapore and Lagos would claim clear biblical mandate not to fellowship with the "gay" supporters at Lambeth. Clearly, to them, the Episcopal church has been yoked together with the world and they will not have communion with darkness. Hence, their rival gathering at the Holy City of Jerusalem where God resides, in contrast to the alleged darkness of London,
In order to comprehend, 2 Cor 6:14, an understanding of Corinth is important. The city was located on the southwest end of the isthmus that joined the southern part of the Greek peninsula with the mainland to the north. For a century (about 350 to 250 B.C.) Corinth was the largest and most prosperous city of mainland Greece until it clashed with Rome and was destroyed in 146 B.C. Julius Caesar rebuilt the city in 44 B.C., and it quickly became an important maritime city in the Roman Empire. Although the restored city of Paul's day was a Roman city, the inhabitants continued to worship Greek gods. The most significant pagan cult in Corinth was the cult of Aphrodite. The worship of Aphrodite had flourished in old Corinth before its destruction in 146 B.C. and was revived in Roman Corinth. A temple for the worship of Aphrodite was located on the top of the Acropolis. The famous Greek historian, Strabo wrote concerning this temple.
" And the temple of Aphrodite was so rich that it owned more than a thousand temple-slaves, courtesans, whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess. And therefore it was also on account of these women that the city was crowded with people and grew rich; for instance, the ship-captains freely squandered their money, and hence the proverb, "Not for every man is the voyage to Corinth."
The true meaning of 2 Corinthians 6:14 now become clearer. When the Gentiles became Christians, many continued on to worship the goddess. So being unequally yoked having a strong sexual connotation and being in one mind and purpose with those who worshipped the goddess and indulging in the sex that comes with the worship. Paul challenged them as to which part of Christianity has in common with the worship of idols. Paul declares that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and so why are they still visiting the temples and associating with the rituals! Come out demanded Paul. Come out from the unclean so that our relationship with God will be unaffected. And God will not leave us alone when we come out, for He promised that He will dwell amongst us in the Spirit and commune with us, as a people of God. Therefore, true Holiness, has nothing to do with who we associate with rather whether our worship is reserved for and centered on Jesus Christ, the name above all name.
Understanding that the City of Corinth was a mega-Geylang, makes it surprising that the churches today used 1 Cor 6:9 to condemn Homosexuality and to insist that they have nothing to do with gays or welcoming churches to the extent of breaking apart the Anglican Communion. Naturally, they are very Holy and would not have visited Geylang on a Saturday night to know the difference.
An idol is an image or symbol, especially an image of a god, used as an object of worship. More commonly in Singapore, it is an object of excessive love, honour or devotion. If Singaporean Gays have the opportunity to sculpture the Singapore Gay Idol, it would be a naked guy. The picture of the ultimate boyfriend - Well built, young, strong, muscular, lean and mean, handsome, with a large and strong cock - the epitome of gay manhood.
Gays in Singapore worship many idols and gods. Perhaps, in their heart, there is a place for the unknown god. A place of searching for the true God, not fulfilled by saunas, discos, and sex. Is there the true God that Gays have somehow bypassed in their yearning for the Singapore's Gay idol? Many Gays have long since departed from the Christian church, after all who would want to stay in a place where gays are continuously labeled as living in sin.
Even as Gay Christians, are our eyes on the Singapore Gay idol, an idol of our own creation to serve the purpose of our innate desire to love, to have a relationship, and to worship. We may believe Jesus by faith, but do we really know Him, His ways, His feelings, as a friend, or is God unknown to us, His ways a mystery just as the real God was mystery, an unknown to the Athenians when Paul visited there 1950 years ago.
Although we claimed that some have idolized the Pope, Christians too have idolized their leaders and made them infallible and above criticisms. Whatever is said by the Preacher becomes God send and we are vary of those who criticise the teachings. We have actually revered them and made them God becoming the idol in our lives. We worship people and their teachings rather than Christ. Therefore, when the likes of John Chew, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Brian Houston, Benny Hinn proclaims that Homosexuality is sinful then surely it must be. It also used to be not many years ago that some major denominations would only listen to hymns on a grand piano, and clapping hands was forbidden as rowdy and unholy. The reverse seems to happen today when we only play Hillsongs and assign the others to revelation of the past. We also downplay the weakness and faults of leaders to such an extent that even financial and moral issues were entirely ignored as "an attack by the worldly media". We come to believe the gullible lies such as Gays causing of the destruction and breakdown of the heterosexual families and support their ministies generously based on this mantra. The World laughs at Christians not because of our faith in Christ or Holiness unto God, but our blind faith on man and man made arguments and apparent hypocrisy. A Holy Nation, a Holy Prieshood becomes a den of theives and an association with big businesses in the appearence of being religious and holy. Christians has become the greatest stumbling block to Christianity. But God has called the church to a place of prayer and seeking God.
The great danger of desiring Holiness is that we will built a castle around us, with a might walls to keep out the World. We only let in what we deemed as moral through the iron gates. This is the current predicament of gays in the church where as Mel White puts, we are strangers at the gate. The religious amongst us, with a fundamentalist zeal would endeavor to keep 377a less the world may corrupt the church. We are reminded of the Pharisees in Jerusalem who guards the temple to make sure that no one enters into the Temple who is a Gentile, or blemished in any way. If Jesus were to be like them, He would have never come down to be with humanity but keep a distance a way. Ironically, when He was with us, it was the religious that He avoided but the outcasts, the undesirables He found most at home with. Jesus was honored by the Father, because He chose to come to suffer and be broken for us. The outworking of true holiness is found when we minister to the least and the despised.
Jesus is the example of true Holiness. If we want to know Holiness, seek to know Jesus and be like Him. When we consume Jesus, we do not become the religious leaders of the day who even though expert in the bible, displayed no mercy nor grace, but were the greatest hypocrites. When we consume Jesus, you would find us doing the Works of Christ amongst those that religion has despised and not amongst the religious majority who know only too well how to condemn.
The key to Holiness ultimate lies not only in a decision to be separate, but being intoxicated by God's love that we will continually abide in Him through thick and thin. Without, it will be another set of laws which will be discarded. It is being continually wary of God's abiding presence and acknowledging Him. It is not how much we love Him or do good works, but that He first loved us. At the end, it is His Holiness, it is His righteousness and not ours. It is about His Love for us and not necessarily our love for Him. At the end, are we for God, or are we actually for ourselves even when doing the religious.
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