One of my favorite professors in Divinity School was a church history professor whose field of study was the Patristics (essentially the first four centuries of the church’s history). So, it may not be surprising to learn that in a fifteen-week course that was to cover church history from the early church through the Middle Ages, roughly 1500 years, we found ourselves in the tenth week but still in the third century. We had considered, studied, and debated every heresy known to the early church.
I have a vivid memory of one brave soul challenging the pace of things. “Why,” he asked, “are we spending so much time on these heresies? We’ll never get to the Middle Ages at this rate.” Dr. Gregg responded, “Because each of these heresies will be alive and well in every church you serve. It is best that you know how the faith responded to them before so you may respond to them again.”
Dr. Gregg was inviting us to an apostolic faith. We were being taught and formed in the faith traditions of the earliest followers of Jesus, those first ones to make bold claims about his humanity and his divinity, his teachings and his life, his death and his resurrection, and the implications of all of that for our lives as his disciples. To be apostolic is to be the church in a particular, missional, and often culturally subversive way.
What I have come to appreciate almost four decades later, by the way, is just how right Bob Gregg was – every heresy he taught us of has been alive and well in every church I have served (yes, including this one).
As we bring our sermon series, “The Church’s One Foundation,” to a close this week, we shall spend some time together considering what we mean when we say that the church is “apostolic.” We’ll turn again to Ephesians for guidance (Ephesians 2:17-22) as well as hear of the missional task of the first apostles in Matthew 10:1-16. As always, we’ll seek to discover together what that might have to say to us as we seek to be faithful disciples here in Cary. We’ll finish up by gathering at the Table and sharing the same meal that the apostolic church has for millennia.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we worship together. While you may miss some of the pre-game show, we promise to have you home well before kick-off.
Grace and peace.