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A LIVING LETTER

[The following is an abridgment of a sermon preached by Bishop Charles
Edward Cheney]


"Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men;
forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ,
ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living
God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."
II Corinthians 3:2,3

Skeptics used to argue that Moses could not have been the author of the
first five books of the Bible, because (they asserted) the art of
writing was unknown in that infancy of the race. But the pick and spade have
come to the rescue of God's Word. The ancient mounds and tombs of
Egypt and Babylonia have proven beyond all controversy that men wrote with
the use of alphabetic characters, not only before the days of Moses,
but before those of Abraham. On what did they write? In the valley of the
Euphrates and the Tigris, they engraved their records, and sent out
letters to other lands on tablets of baked clay. In Egypt the stone
coffins of the dead have given up to the investigator long rolls of papyrus,
made from the reeds of the Nile, covered with inscriptions. But in St.
Paul's day these ancient materials had been superseded by parchment
made from the skins of animals. The Apostle must too have known and
sometimes used the Roman fashion of writing with a sharp point of steel upon
a tablet coated with wax. But when he comes to speak of his own letters
of commendation, he does not allude to any of these materials. He says
to the Christians at Corinth: "Ye are our epistle."

Evidently his mind ran back to that day when Moses brought down the
steep sides of Mount Sinai the tablets graven with the Ten Commandents.
High honour was that of Moses, to be the bearer of God's Law, even though
it were on tablets of stone. But it was a grander thing to be God's
agent in writing His law upon the character and spiritual nature of living
men. As a true Apostle and faithful minister of the Gospel, St. Paul
says that the only commendation, the only testimonial worth his having,
was to see Jesus Christ in the lives and hearts of those to whom Paul
had preached salvation through the precious blood. What is all this to
us?

Much every way; but for one thing, it teaches us what should be the
effect of doctrinal truth. In our day there has been an outcry against
creeds. Some ecclesiastical bodies have rejected all definite statements
of religious truth, as one flings away his old and worn-out clothes. I
do not care to argue that point this morning. But this I feel bound to
say: There are certain great truths which shine out in the Bible, as
the constellations in the firmament. They will grow dim with age only
when Orion and the Great Bear shall drop out of the sky. Woe to the
mariner who dreams that the sun and the moon and stars are too old and dim
with age to be of use in determining his latitude and longitude on the
trackless sea! Woe to the Christian who has begun to feel that the truths
which God set in His Word from all eternity are too old and outworn to
be his guides to glory. But those truths are to appear somewhere else
than in the printed page. They are to be accepted in another way than by
mere intellectual assent.
Those who have grown gray in the membership of Christ Church will
cheerfully bear witness, that I have been an unswerving teacher of
evangelical religion. You will testify that in these days of drifting opinions
my beloved associate and I have been faithful to the fundamental truths
embodied in the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds. Perhaps you say that
you honour your pastors' teaching in your firm adherence to the Gospel
they have preached.

But, beloved, did you never read that in Christ's time the Pharisees
wore the words of the Law written on a scrap of parchment, and bound as a
fillet upon the forehead?

If your creed be in your Prayer Books only, it might as well be a dry
piece of parchment worn upon your brow, or an epitaph carved on a
tombstone. Oh, give your pastors this letter of recommendation: Live your
Creed! Let your doctrines be written on your daily walk and conversation.
Then, with what unutterable joy can we say: "Ye are our epistle"

Sometimes men and women complain that the Church does not set them at
work. They are like the unemployed in our great cities. But God
certainly has a use for every soul that accepts salvation. He would employ you
as you employ the sheet on which you write a letter. God would send you
people of Christ Church out into the busy life of Chicago bearing a
commendation of the Gospel preached from this pulpit. But before He puts
you to that use, He must transform you by a process of preparation.

Do not mistake me! You are not to wait for some mysterious work of the
Spirit. God stands ready to transform you today. But even the Almighty
cannot make you a living epistle of Christ except you surrender that
soul into His hands.

I remember a strange scene of our Civil War. Bishop Simpson of the
Methodist Church addressed a vast crowd in behalf of our soldiers in the
hospitals. His surpassing eloquence touched the hearts of his hearers
until into the collection-plates were flung jewels and watches and
flashing gems. But diamond rings and golden bracelets could bind up no
wounds, and give no cordial to fever-parched lips. They had to be transmuted
into money to do that. But, after all, the turning-point, the crisis,
of that change was the surrender, the giving of them up!

Beloved, the older I grow in the Christian life, the more do I believe
that in self-surrender-the absolute putting of our will into the hands
of God that He may make us over-is the secret of our being fitted for
His work here, and His glory hereafter. Is not this the day, the hour,
to give yourself wholly, keeping nothing back, to Him who redeemed you
by His blood?

But remember this: No Church can escape its destiny to be read like a
letter by the searching eyes of the world.

When a man accepts the nomination of his party for some high office,
like that of President of the United States, his letter of acceptance is
always read by millions. Enemies as well as friends study every phrase.
If their be a weak spot, it will be pointed out with unsparing
severity. The writer is judged by his letter.

"Ye are our epistle." What will men and women who read you this week,
say? May God's Holy Spirit so come upon you this day, that through the
coming week, Christ may be read in every line of your life! Amen!

Parish News


The Preschool Open House took place August 17, 2003. Classes began
September 2, 2003

A party was held for the VBS staff on August 24, 2003. Everyone ate
pizza and then went bowling together.

Congratulations
Diane Stultz and Frank Alberson were united in marriage at St. Andrew's
on Sunday, August 31, 2003. Diane is the daughter of Jeff and Lorie
Stultz and the granddaughter of Clarine Conn.

October 25, 2003, 5-7 p.m.

Missionary of The Month


Greg & Helena Wright. Arab World Ministries. Upper Darby, PA 19082

Domestic Missions


Pray for Bishop and Mrs. Fincke (Ann), and their children Katie, Emily,
Elizabeth, and Andrew. All Saints Reformed Episcopal Mission in
Vacaville, Ca.

Happy Birthday!


Oct. 1 - Diane Alberson
Oct. 5 - Janet Novak
Oct. 8 - Louise Rich
Oct. 17 - Carla Yehnert
Oct. 19 - Parham Horn
Oct. 27 - Annamarie Sellers

God's Love


God's love is like the rolling ocean,
So deep and very wide,
No force can ever hope to check,
Or stop its surging tide.

Like craggy mountains towering upward,
Vast and strong and tall,
There is no measure for His love,
And yet I have it all!

O. J. Robertson


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