Trinity 6, Steadfast Service

Steadfast Service! I think this is the cornerstone of this church and the people who serve in it. I don’t know if everyone realizes this, but everyone here is a volunteer. Our priests and clergy receive no salary; our organist donates her time (and we bless and thank her for that, by the way!). Service to the Liberal Catholic Church has always been a labor of love for those who embrace its teachings and its philosophy.

From the little booklet, “Statement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine,” we read “The operations of the Liberal Catholic Church are dependent entirely upon the voluntary contributions of both its laity and its clergy. No salary or personal recompense is given to its clergy; indeed, its clergy serve willingly, often at considerable expense to themselves, and many earn their livings in secular occupations.”

It is true that, as the priest announces every Sunday, our people are left free to interpret the scriptures as they wish, and that in matters of belief everyone is left free to follow their own conscience. This does not mean that the Liberal Catholic Church does not have a body of teachings, for we do. Our former Presiding Bishop (that is to say, the head of the Liberal Catholic Church worldwide), Johannes van Alphen, published a few years ago a new Catechism. In it, Question 3 asks “What is the purpose of the Liberal Catholic Church?” Bishop van Alphen answers thusly: “The Liberal Catholic Church exists to forward the work of its Master— Christ— in the world and to feed His flock. There is a growing awareness amongst men and women in the world today of the reality of a spiritual world and a belief that, whilst laboring in the material world, one may attain to a greater sense of union with the Divine through a discipline of religious and spiritual exercise.

“The purpose of the LCC is all-encompassing, offering sacred rites and ancient teachings in a spirit of modern understanding, and aimed at meeting the demands of a growing spiritual awareness in the world of today.”

I would also like to read the “Summary of Doctrine” from the booklet I mentioned earlier. There are seven points.

1. The Liberal Catholic Church teaches the existence of God, infinite, eternal, transcendent, and imminent. He is the one essence from which all forms of existence are derived. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.

2. God manifests in His universe as a Trinity, called in the Christian religion Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three Persons in one God, co-equal and co-eternal; the Father the cause of all, the Son the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us, the Holy Ghost the life-giver, the inspirer and Sanctifier.

3. A human being is a complex of spirit, soul, and body. The human spirit made in the image of God is divine in essence. Therefore it cannot cease to exist; it is eternal, and its future is one whose glory and splendor has no limit.

4. Christ ever lives as a mighty spiritual presence in the world, guiding and sustaining His people. The divinity that was manifest in Him is gradually being unfolded in everyone until each shall come “unto a perfect being, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13.

5. The world is the theatre of an ordered plan, according to which the human spirit, by repeatedly expressing itself in varying conditions of life and experience, continually unfolds its powers. This spiritual unfoldment takes place under an inviolable law of cause and effect. “Whatsoever a man sowest, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7. One’s doings in each physical incarnation largely determine one’s experience after death in the intermediate world (or world of purgation) and the heavenly world, and greatly influence the circumstances of one’s next birth. Humanity is a link in a vast chain of life extending from the highest to the lowest. As one helps those below, so also is one helped by those who stand above on the ladder of life, receiving thus a free gift of grace. There is a communion of saints, just people made perfect or holy ones, who help humankind. There is a ministry of angels.

6. We have ethical duties to ourselves and to others. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40. It is our duty to learn to discern the divine light in ourselves and others, that light “that lighteth everyone.” John 1:9. Because we are children of God, we are brothers and sisters and inseparably linked together; that which harms one harms all. Hence we owe it as a duty to the God both within ourselves and others, first to endeavor constantly live up to the highest that is in us, thereby enabling that God within us to become more perfectly manifest; secondly, to recognize the fact of that brotherhood by constant effort towards unselfishness, by love of, consideration for, and service to our fellows. The service of humanity, reverence for all life, and the sacrifice of the lower self to the higher are laws of spiritual growth.

7. Christ instituted various sacraments in which an inward and spiritual grace is given to us through an outward and visible sign. There are seven rites that may be ranked as sacraments, namely Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Absolution, Holy Unction, Matrimony, Holy Orders. The doctrine of these sacraments is sufficiently set forth in the authorized Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church. Christ, the living Head of the Church that He founded, is the true minister of all sacraments.

That is the “Summary of Doctrine.” Then follows this short paragraph: “Inasmuch as the Liberal Catholic Church welcomes to its membership all who are seeking truth, it does not require its members to accept this Statement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine; it is, however, to be regarded as embodying the distinctive contribution of the Liberal Catholic Church to Christian thought. The Bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church are prepared to accept as candidates for ordination only those who find themselves in general agreement with this Statement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine.”

So that is the foundation of this church, and we who serve her do so gladly. But of course Steadfast Service does not apply to just the church work. We all of us can and do practice this virtue—every time we help another, help an animal, help the world itself. Pick up and dispose of a piece of litter—steadfast service. Brake for a squirrel—steadfast service. Give driving directions to him who asks—steadfast service. Every day in little and not so little ways we help each other; we offer our service without even a thought of recompense. (I cannot imagine telling someone I’ll tell him how to get where he’s going if he’ll pay me to do so!)

The recompense will come, nevertheless. We in our turns will be helped by others, and we will be given the opportunity for more service. What’s that phrase—the reward for work is more work. So, too, the reward for service is service; the reward for love is love. If we perform every service gladly, with an open heart, we will teach others by our own good examples.

Recently I was talking about my current boss who has kindly been bringing me in flowers from his garden of a Monday morning. I remarked to my husband what a nice man my boss is. He asked me if my current boss was nicer than two previous bosses I’d had. I stopped and thought a moment, and then I had to truthfully say that I thought that they were kinder than my current boss, nice as he is. I said this because, as I thought back to my tenure with them, I realized I had become closer to them because they showed that they truly cared about me because they took the time to learn about and care about me and my family. Whenever I now encounter them, they still always ask about my daughter and the grandchildren.

So I had a moment of enlightenment spurred by this simple question. I realized that the best of friends care about all of you—yourself, your family, what is important to you. I also realized that I myself am not always one who explores relationships to this depth, and I asked myself if that’s the kind of friend I wanted to be. The answer was no, I want to be a true friend, and so I have resolved to express more care for other people’s families and interests. I want to be the kind of friend that people are glad to have, not a superficial one.

Perhaps I got a bit off the track here, but I can also see friendship as a form of service, albeit one performed willingly and joyfully rather than out of duty.

So let that feeling enliven all of the services that you perform—be willing and joyful in your actions; offer your services up to Our Lord, and you will reap your true reward.

And now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, three Persons in one God, be ascribed all honour, might, majesty, power and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.

Judie A. C. Cilcain, Deaconess

July 22, 2001

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