As some may know, I had hoped to attend the Lambeth Conference, but other responsibilities, and a few kerfluffles, got in the way. Nonetheless, I am in virtual attendance today, via this short essay in the Lambeth Witness, which is also available on-line.
Jesus portrays the Word as seed scattered abroad, a striking image for the generosity and breadth of Christ’s mission to the world — but also the extent to which the Word requires soil as well as sowing in order to bear fruit.
This is in keeping with the truth that the Son, the living Word, does nothing on his own (John 5:19,30; 8:28). So, too, the Bible, the written Word, does not work alone, but takes root in the heart, and is interpreted under the stewardship of the church by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, becoming fruitful through the Church’s mission and its many members. Ultimately, the truth of the interpretation will be found in the fruit and harvest they bear. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
As the deacon and evangelist Philip showed the Ethiopian, true interpretation of Scripture will point us to Christ (Acts 8). Christ is the living Word to whom the written Word leads us in the Way to the Truth, and thence to Life; and Scripture is fruitful as it performs the task for which we are assured it is sufficient. God’s purpose is to bring people to the new Life of faith — as it did the Ethiopian, who, with the Spirit’s guidance and at Philip’s teaching saw the Truth, and immediately asked to be baptized into the new Life, into Christ’s Body, the Church.
That whole Church (laity, deacons, priests and bishops) is engaged in this process, each and all called to be ‘soil’ for the word to take root — to bear ‘fruit with its seed in it’ (Genesis 1:29), seed which they will further spread. Bishops, as the senior presbyters, have a specific role in teaching; but in coming to decisions at Lambeth, do well to recall Resolution 24 of Lambeth 1968: ‘That no major issue in the life of the Church should be decided without the full participation of the laity in discussion and in decision.’ The harvest is most plentiful when the seed is cast most widely, to many fertile fields, by many workers, all of them servants of the one Lord, whatever their order of ministry. §
Tobias Haller BSG