Anglicanism Cornerstone – Thoughts for Easter 5, Year A,
The Rev Robert G Eaton
Almighty God, you have built your Church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching (traditional collect: “doctrine”), that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for Proper 8, BCP pg 230)
At the heart of the Church, the Body of Christ, is the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior, God. There are many verses in the Gospels where Jesus makes this claim for himself. The following section of Chapter 8 of the Gospel according to John (the brother of James, the sons of “boanerges” – thunder) includes a very difficult challenge made by Jesus to a group of Jews, where they also “push back” by challenging what they think they hear him saying and by what they think they observed of him, wherein he makes this proclamation more than once. Jesus lays it on the line. No other leader/founder of the world’s great religions dares make this claim. The Jews response to Jesus in Chapter 8 is indicative of this claim.
In the middle of this section of Chapter 8 is a well-known phrase, at least well-known in Anglican circles, “the truth shall set you free”, or as it can be found in the koinonia greek text, encircling the cross of St George at the middle of the Anglican Communion compass rose, ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς .
That phrase has been used just as many times flippantly, as it has as a faithful reminder of who Jesus is and the Truth that He brings to us in Him. It is our Anglican foundation cornerstone, because it is of Jesus.
It is helpful in understanding Jesus’ reference to such Truth to see where Jesus speaks of Truth in another part of John’s Gospel, that is in Chapters 15 and 16, in reference to his departure in Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. This is vs 13 of Chap 16:
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
In a more pastoral tone, this is what Jesus said to that difficult gathering eight chapters earlier, well before the Last Supper which is the context of Chapters 15 and 16. But you should at least note the consistent similarities of divine order and expectation here. Jesus came and speaks what the Father has given him to say, that the world needs to repent of their unfaithfulness to God and see God’s Truth found in Jesus. Then Jesus says the Holy Spirit will come and speak what Jesus has given His Spirit to say, that the world needs to repent of their unfaithfulness to God and see God’s Truth found in Jesus. And what Jesus says to the Spirit, is in fact what he proclaims the Father has said to Jesus. The Truth remains the same. And by believing in the One who is the Truth, you will be set free from every sin, every disobedience, every evil root, these very un-Truths, which all claim to be the truth. By Jesus rehearsing the very Name of God, I AM who I AM (YaHWeH), he reiterates the current tense, the past tense and the future tense of the Truth, that “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow” (Hebr 13:8) There is now no new Truth, for the Truth has always been. Again, as we set aside the un-Truths for the real Truth, we are set free.
We do hope at least when you see this Episcopal/Anglican cornerstone statement, you will see it as a beginning summary of the profound depth it represents, that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that you, too, can join us in the confession of the One Truth, and so be set Free in Jesus.
Here is that section from Chapter 8 of John’s Gospel.
21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” 22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” 23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
25 “Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Don’t keep Jesus at arm’s length, don’t let him “slip away” from you; accept him as he said he is.