Alignment

Click here to listen to this 13-minute message.

This message was preached on a special day: the first service I led as an ordained Anglican priest in the Diocese of Pretoria, South Africa. There’s a picture of me below, flanked by The Rev’d Marti Slater (Assistant Priest) and The Rev’d Siphiwo Bam (Rector of our parish) after the service.

In this message, I share a little of my journey of being called into ministry, which goes back about 30 years since I first heard the call (and began avoiding it) and 14 years since I accepted the call and began journeying towards ordination. There is a long story, the details of which I don’t go into in this message. Suffice it to say that it has not been easy and that I and many others are delighted that this day has finally arrived.

In the process of this journey, particularly in the past year or so, and especially during this past week of preparation for yesterday’s ordination (Saturday 15 December), I have come to understand that God has been working to increasingly align my life – the whole of my life, both interior and public, both in church and in the ‘secular’ workspace – with God’s will and desire. Alignment has become the word I use to express my experience of this journey towards ordination.

Looking at the Advent reading for today, from Luke 3:7-18, we see John the Baptist calling people to prepare for the coming Messiah, to make their hearts and their society ready to receive him. He says, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (vs 8a), which I interpret as a call to alignment. Repentance is an internal and spiritual act, between oneself and God. Producing fruit, on the other hand, is a public and social act, between oneself and the world.

After exhorting his congregation to repentance, people ask him, “What should we do then?” and John gives three responses that point to a message of social justice – about treating people fairly, honestly, kindly and with integrity. His message of repentance is, in many ways, a social message. But then he goes on to warn people that one greater than he will come, who baptizes not with water but with Spirit and fire. This message is a religious and spiritual one.

John is not presenting a muddled message. Rather, he is calling for an alignment between our private and public lives, between our ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ lives. He is anticipating Paul’s disclosure of the mystery of God’s will, viz. “He [God] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10).

Ultimately, there is no distinction between our private and public lives, between our ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ lives. All are within the sphere of God’s interest and mission. All need to align with God. As we journey towards alignment, we help to make straight paths for the Lord, rather than crooked ones. We help to fill in the valleys and make low the mountains, so that rough ways become smooth. Then all people will see God’s salvation (Luke 3:4-6).

Here is a definition of Christian alignment that I have been working on. Alignment is:

  • The will of God the Father,
  • Enacted by God the Son,
  • Empowered by God the Holy Spirit,
  • Illuminating our hearts and minds,
  • Expressed through our values in action, and
  • Transforming the world.

2018.12.16_Alignment_priests

The video below is a song written and performed by Gregory Porter called Take me to the Alley. I have been listening to this song over the past week, and during retreat it was ever in my mind. I find the words profound and the style of the song very moving. I think it is an Advent hymn.

 

Feature image from: http://mxtrianz.me/stone-stack/stone-stack-9-stack-of-stones-and-sea-splash-stock-footage-video-4820351/

 

5 thoughts on “Alignment

  1. edingight says:

    Oak preaching on the last Sunday of 2018 and the first Sunday of 2019. With your permission, I plan to steal your idea of alignment for my New Year’s sermon. It fits perfectly with my thoughts on getting the new year in order!

    Love,

    Michael

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. Trevor Evans says:

    Dear Adrian,

    First of all, many congratulations on moving into the priesthood. As you have noted, a long journey for yourself but, it would appear, an inevitable one for you. I am certain that this is the right course for you and I wish you every success with this mission; you have been provided with the attributes to bring others closer to Christ and now you have been given the pathway down which to walk.

    Secondly, an excellent definition of “alignment”. If we could all seek to be aligned in this manner, the world would be brimming with joy and God would be made happy.

    Best wishes for Christmas and for your journey ahead,

    Trevor. Trevor G. Evans Mobile: +44 (0) 7789 764 537 Mobile RSA: +27 (0) 71 291 1914 Skype: tgeimisglobal Email: trevorgevans@yahoo.co .uk Evans trevorgevans@yahoo.co.uk

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  3. Genevieve Geekie says:

    Congratulations, my dear Adrian.

    I shall read this anon.

    Love

    Gen Geekie.

    PS: I celebrate our continued friendship

    On Sun, Dec 16, 2018 at 4:12 PM Reflections of God’s Love wrote:

    > Adrian van Breda posted: “Click here to listen to this 13-minute message. > This message was preached on a special day: the first service I led as an > ordained Anglican priest in the Diocese of Pretoria, South Africa. There’s > a picture of me below, flanked by The Rev’d Marti Slater ” >

    Like

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