God's Secretaries July 2013

I'm reading GOD'S SECRETARIES by Adam Nicolson, a book that Carolyn brought to the June Literary Party on Royalty. Subtitled The Making of the King James Bible, the book is an engaging exploration of the political, religious and social landscape of England in the early 1600's. The people and positions of the Biblical translating team and the contexts they operated in reveal much about the reformation, the antecedents of our separation of church and state, and the face of the church, which today still holds many of the same the tensions that were at work in Jacobean England.

Writing the *In the Spirit* column for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and hanging out for 18 years at The Word Shop has given me a large view of the church, organized into various faith communities. I see three streams which flow through in varying intensities: Sacramental, Evangelical and Pentecostal. The tensions evidenced in God's Secretaries between the Sacramental and Evangelical sensibilities are to some degree held together by the state church. The Book of Common Prayer still holds phrases about God who "reveals himself in Word and Sacrament."

However, the inherent assumptions of governance by ecclesiastic divines, marginalizes the third stream to a tip of the hat in the direction of the Holy Spirit. In the 1600's the third stream pushed against the royal insistence on the importance of order and divine governance through the King and his ecclesiastic minions. It is an ancient struggle; the persecution of the earliest Christians centered often on their refusal to offer incense to Caesar as Lord. This issue of governance by the spirit, versus government by appointment, or by political leaders brought those early pilgrims to our country and birthed the whole notion of separation of church and state that we struggle with today.

Richard Foster in his book STREAMS OF LIVING WATER identifies seven streams that flow in and through the church. While you can cut the cake in many directions, the important thing is to recognize and become conversant with the elements that flow throughout the church. I have come to believe that the goal is not to make every faith community hold the perfect balance of the varying components, but rather that we learn to appreciate (and forgive) the different orientations, perceiving each one as a vital expression of the kingdom of God.

 Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message. — Malcolm Muggeridge

Note: one of the joys of reading GOD'S SECRETARIES was the bookmark which was a scrap of Carolyn's paper. On one side was written a list: 

Cat box
Bef. the throne

Followed by six notes in a musical staff.