FROM THE DESK OF THE ARCHBISHOP AND APOSTOLIC HEAD
Sir Dr. Godfrey Gregg
Grace Still Means Saying “I’m Sorry”
I greet my Lord Patriarch and Presiding Prelate, Queen Abbess, Cardinal and other Ministers, brothers and sisters of this Noble Order. I often remind people, “Christ died to make us perfect!” But I have a problem: I’m not perfect.
In fact, I am far from it. Perhaps because I am so aware of God’s desire that I forsake sin and follow Him perfectly, it breaks my heart even more that I still find myself choosing sin. I am still bitter and resentful. I choose lies instead of truth, hurtful jokes instead of encouragement, jealousy instead of love, and fear instead of faith so often. Where are the love, truth, honour, respect and praise that would bring me life and bring glory to God?
There must be something terribly wrong for a Christian to know his or her own sinful nature and not be affected by it.
St. Paul tells us in the second letter to the Corinthians, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” (2 Cor. 7:10)
True repentance doesn’t lead to regret; it leads to change. And that’s what this season of our lives is about. A practice that is most often observed by the more ritualistic Christian traditions, this season of repentance is becoming more commonly practiced across the board in Christianity. From the outside, this season can seem a little works-focused or even just “old-time.” I think it’s important that as Christians we all take some time to remember why this season is observed at all.
Stemming from the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, the forty years the Israelites spent searching for the Promised Land, and the forty days and nights of rain that Noah’s family endured, the forty days before Easter are a time for refocusing. We are called to deny temptation, turn from sin, and move into closeness with the Father. Christians all over the world carry out this call by fasting and praying for the duration of Lent. However, in this season before Pentecost it is time to tarry for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives. We are looking ahead my brethren to the out pouring of the Spirit and power of Almighty God.
The repentance Paul talks about has three components:
1. Sorrow for Sin
Sorrow for sin is a private but necessary part of reconciliation with God. It means the difference between a heartfelt apology of true contrition, and an apology to acquire forgiveness because “I know I’m supposed to be sorry.” We as a church must learn to acknowledge wrong, accept our failures and make amends. We must be sorry for our actions and be man or woman to say “I am sorry.”
2. Desire to Turn From Sin
The reason we “give up” bad habits or distractions during our Christian lives is to avoid temptation and the occasion of sin. The outward appearance, the action, of our lives means very little without the inward reverence of a person who desires to become holy.
3. Trust in God’s Grace
With the Grace Jesus died to give us and the Holy Spirit He left in His place, we can come to a real knowledge of our sins and repent in a healthy way. This season can bring us into a greater sense of the grace which makes us aware of our sin, which gives us strength to turn from our old ways, and which ultimately saves us.
Many Christians, myself included, often fall a little too far into this spirit of repentance though and suffer more from the ‘regret’ that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians. That regret, an overwhelming and sometimes crippling guilt, is not something I want to be a part of my faith. But I would never want to be entirely detached from the sorrow of my own sin, and the knowledge that my sin breaks the heart of my Father in Heaven, that my sin is what held His Son on the cross. Many people are associated with ministers and churches that fail to set the examples for the furtherance of the Gospel. We cannot stop in the place where God wants to take us and lead us into repentance and pastures green.
There’s this attitude that if you’re really a Christian, if you’re really saved, you shouldn’t grieve for or dwell on sin or suffering, and it’s not a helpful one. The way we try to hide brokenness and sin and sorrow in the name of being Christians – who are not, apparently, supposed to have anything to complain about – is astounding to me. It seems like, on the surface, there is no room for pain and sorrow in Christianity because ours is a joyful faith. But I believe that it is in knowing real sorrow that we can know real joy. Brethren unless you find yourself in the place where you can feel the pains and sorrow, you will not be able to speak about it. You will not know the joy of the Lord to be your strength. Our own actions speak louder than our words.
In remembering Christ’s passion I am reminded of the suffering He underwent for me, so that I could be forgiven, so that I could enter into eternal life with Him. I grieve for my sin and the death that a perfect God endured for my sake. The very nature of the Cross is a paradox. In the cross, grief and joy, sin and grace, death and life, are all present in the fullest sense. I don’t think it’s wrong that we experience that paradox as well.
“We are the Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!” And so this is my conclusion “A Christian should be an ‘alleluia’ from head to foot.” But being an “Easter person,” an “alleluia from head to foot,” means remembering why we can celebrate the resurrection and ascension of Jesus into Heaven; because first, He knew sorrow and pain, and it is in sharing in His death that we can truly share in the triumph of His Resurrection.
This week, be an inspiring person! As you face trials and setbacks, praise God despite them – or even because of them. Christ’s passion led to your salvation, likewise praising God through little trials can help you move closer to the heart of Christ. So in closing I trust that you will come down off your high mountains and humble yourselves before man and God. As a Christian your life begins with humility and a godly sorrow towards sin. Turn away and towards the heavens. Let the Lord be your constant guide.
May Almighty God bless and keep you in His care and Love until He comes to take us home. I will always love and serve you.