Presiding Bishop Michael Curry led a weeklong Episcopal Relief & Development pilgrimage to Ghana focused on reconciliation, visiting cities and sites critical to understanding the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and Episcopal Relief & Development partners and programs that work to improve Ghanaians’ lives. Ghanaian church partners and ERD colleagues shared asset-based community development work with the pilgrims in the northern part of the country, and later traveled to the Cape Coast to pray and reflect on the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the work of reconciliation required of all of us as followers of Jesus. An estimated 12 to 25 million Africans passed through Ghana’s ports to be sold as slaves in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.
One word is the topic of this Christmas sermon: "character." The first sermon I ever preached was in January 1983, and I touched on all the readings, and then some. As the years have passed, I have focused more and more, on two readings, one reading, then only a couple of verses, and tonight — just one word. If you look at the reading from the Letter to Hebrews, not by St. Paul, incidentally, you will see these words: “he is … the exact imprint of his being…” We all know that no translation can perfectly render what is said in one language into another language. The word translated as “imprint” is also “image” or “representation” in all the Romance-language Bibles I looked at. The Latin says “figure”, while the Germans always use the same word, which means “exact picture”.
As I prepared this homily for today, I realized that I hardly ever preach on the last things. And yet, Advent, which we begin today, is about getting ready for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour. In other words, the story that we tell every year about a baby born in a manger; who is God among us; who teaches us a new way and then is killed and returns from death; who goes to be with God; who starts the Church . . . this story has an end. So, these four weeks of Advent the scriptures are all about getting ready for the story to end. Today, I want to talk about the connection between the end of the world, and the end of each of us.
[Holy Trinity, Nice, France] Today, we are celebrating, two days in advance, the festival of All Saints – all of the people who are with the Lord, past present and future. You know that we don’t have to be Anglican in order to go to heaven, though I am told that it will help a great deal to know which fork to use at the heavenly banquet! All Saints’ Day is an odd festival because all of the other festivals of the church are festivals of things past, whereas All Saints’ Day is really a festival of the future. This is the only church festival that is about the future…Whose future? Your future, my future.
At its October meeting, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church awarded Grace Church, Montpellier a $5,000 discernment grant. The Council approved grants for church planting and Mission Enterprise Zones development throughout the Episcopal Church. Newly created grants are awarded to dioceses and already-established ministries exploring possibilities for new initiatives or expansion. The funding also calls for the creation of a community of practice for equipping the church with resources for assessment, coaching, networking, and the sharing of best practices.
In the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. As we come to a close of this convention, this synod of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, I want to speak to a theme that we spend a lot of time talking about -- but first all, learning how to say the words – “Committee on Mission Congregations.” It is a longstanding committee but one that we are reforming with an eye to a new day, a new era in Europe, for us all. And one of the tasks of this committee is to help the rest of us me, the Bishop, and the Council of Advice, particularly with the task of planting new churches. And so I want to address that. Two weeks ago, the South African entrepreneur turned Californian, Elon Musk, announced his plans to plant a civilization on the planet Mars by the year 2050. If it were anybody else, this plan would be laughed out of court, but it is Elon Musk whose electric car, the Tesla, is now the best selling car in its class in America, and who has just finished building the world largest battery plant in the world in Utah -- Elon Musk whose SpaceX is the leader in the fierce competition in the commercial exploitation in space.
This is my sixteenth convention among you. The first was when I was consecrated as your Bishop in charge, in St. Paul’s-Within-the-Walls, Rome, on November 18, 2001. Not many of you here today were in attendance. In many respects, it seems to me to have been only yesterday. And yet much has changed. You have changed, Beloved. Today, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe is a completely self-governing jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church, with all the structures of a diocese.
My dear sisters and brothers of the Alt-katholisch Bistum in Deutschland, I wish to thank Bischof Mathias for the privilege of speaking to you today. My ministry as Bishop started with your Church, since Bischof Joachim Vobbe was one of my consecrating bishops in 2001. Soon after that, he made me an assistanz bischof in this Church; Bischof Mathias is an assistanz bischof of the Episcopal Church in Europe. One of the most important relationships all Anglicans have is with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. Since 1931 we have been in full communion, which means that we recognize each other as true Churches. So we already work together in the one mission of the Church, to proclaim the Word of God, teach the ancient faith of the saints, faithfully administer the sacraments, and minister to the sick and the helpless. But what more can we do together?
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mul- berry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. Similar sayings of Jesus in Mark’s and in Matthew’s Gospels juxtapose mustard seeds with mountains instead of mulberry trees. The phrase “faith that moves moun- tains” has found a home in our language as a figure of speech.
[St.James' Episcopal Church, Florence] It is always wonderful to be here at St. James’, and today in particular, to confirm Raoul and James, to preach the Word of God, and to celebrate the Eucharist with you. Today, I would like to talk mostly about St. Paul’s letter to Philemon. Paul is an apostle, and when the apostles left this world to go be with the Lord, they had left behind successors that we call bishops; bishops are the apostles of today. There is a certain style to a bishop’s letter, and this is it. I have to say, I just love Paul's letter to Philemon not only because of its content, but also for its style. Just look at the beginning of Paul's letter. “Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus” – he’s writing from prison – “and Timothy, our brother,” the man he called "my son" elsewhere in the Bible, “to Phile’mon our dear friend and co-worker, to Ap’phia our sister” – probably his wife -- “to Archip'pus our fellow soldier” (whoever he is!) “and to the church in your house.”