July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
[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.”
[American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris] It is a wonderful day to be here with you. This is the day that the Lord hath made let us rejoice and be glad in it. I am glad in the pulpit today because we are going to hear about an extraordinary piece of literature, the letter to Hebrews. King James’ men, when they did their famous translation, called it the Letter of Paul to the Hebrews. But, it is almost most certainly not by Paul. It is written by an anonymous Christian, a Jew, writing to Jewish Christians, and it uses extraordinary metaphors written from the perspective of the Jewish people.
L'horrible meurtre du père Jacques Hameli à St. Etienne du Rouvray réouvre des plaies encore saignantes non seulement pour nous anglicans, pour les catholiques, mais pour nous tous. Alors, comment réagir? Il faut un front commun de dirigeants juifs, musulmans, et chrétiens qui affirment publiquement le message central des trois religions abrahamiques: Dieu aime l'humanité.
Dear Ones, Our friends in Nice need our prayers as they minister the love of God to their stricken city. And let us pray for the dead and dying, the wounded and all who care for them, the police who had to kill the terrorist and face the horror he had created, and him too. And finally, pray and work for justice, that we might have peace.
We are here at Emmanuel church to welcome the interim rector, the Rev. Joel Miller and his wife Christina. Here, we are gathered to empower this priest to serve as your rector in the interim. Let me just say, what is a rector? We can’t tell what an interim rector is if we don’t know what a rector is. And the word simply means leader. It is something that the Episcopal Church has used since before the American Revolution to designate the priest in charge of a congregation. But in fact, the priest stands in the place of the bishop, which is why I read a letter of institution that authorized the Rev. Joel P. Miller to serve as interim rector. How did all of this come about? Well, if you read the New Testament, and I know you do, you’ll recognize that there are three orders mentioned in it. There are deacons, and there are Bishops -– the word means overseer in Greek – it got sort of squashed from 'epískopos' to Bishop in English – English does that. Then, there are also presbyters – elders, and to paraphrase John Milton, presbyter is but priest writ large. So, Bishops, priest and deacons, have been with us since the beginning of the church.
[Frankfurt, Germany] So, here I am again for my annual visitation at Christ the King. We have our young friend and two people here down in front, all looking at me rather fearfully! Today, we are going to baptize and receive these three people into the church, which is always a wonderful celebration for new members. They are making a commitment to join the congregation – to join the fellowship of this communion. In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks about commitment. It is a line only found in Luke. Jesus puts this in very absolute terms, echoing the story of Elijah and Elisha, where Elisha is chosen to replace Elijah, the wonder working prophet. Elijah comes to give him mantle as prophet, and Elisha says, “Wait, I have some business to do.” And so he kills the oxen and cooks them on the wood of his plow. That is commitment. He made a choice. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and turns back is fit for the kingdom of God “
It is a great pleasure to be back here in Wiesbaden at St Augustine of Canterbury. Today is a new chapter in the life of this congregation with the inauguration of the rectorship of the Rev. Christopher Easthill. Christopher has received my letter of institution, and he is charged with seeing that the Word is preached, the Sacraments are faithfully celebrated, the Faith is taught and that you are cared for in the name of Jesus Christ. Today’s Gospel is a very famous gospel with the gathering swine running off of the cliff and drowning in the water. I believe in Britain there is an expression that if you say something is gathering, it is a blind rush. This is a very peculiar gospel story. It is about an exorcism. The church has a rite of exorcism. It is found in the book of occasional services, which contains among other things the blessing of a home, the consecration of an altar . . .
Ring, ring. Sorry to disturb you presiding bishop, but I am calling from All Saints’ Church Waterloo, Belgium. Today we had a visit from Bishop Pierre. Something very strange happened that we felt that we had to report to you. A woman came running into the church. She fell at his feet. She began kissing his feet while she wept, and after she got his feet good and wet, she wiped them off with her hair. Then, she got out some perfume! Well. . .what would you think if such a thing had actually happened at today's service? In today's reading, Luke 7: 36 - 8: 3, we find one of those incredibly dramatic moments found in the gospel, and it’s full of things that ordinarily we don’t quite understand. There is this town -- it is not really named, and then there is this fellow named Simon -- there are nine Simons in the New Testament -- who invites Jesus to his home. There, Jesus encounters this woman. . .
There is an old story about the Trinity that goes like this. There was a man who never came to church except on Trinity Sunday. Finally, the head usher approached him and asked him why the parish only saw him on Trinity Sunday. What it for work reasons? “No,” he replied. “Family issues, perhaps?” said the usher. “No, nothing like that.” “Well, what then?” “I like to come to hear how the rector will try to explain the Trinity one more time.” Well, today your Rector is off the hook. The Bishop will now explain the Trinity to you. But first, think about quantum physics. The Danish physicist who threw down the bases for it said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum physics does not understand it.” If quantum physics is so hard to understand, which is only about atoms and their components, why should we be surprised that the nature of God is not understood?
At the heart of Christian prayer is the Holy Eucharist. It rightfully holds a central place in the gathering of Christians, as it declares our identity more than any pre-set prayer or creedal statement ever will. It is not just something that we do; it is who we are. We are Eucharist. We are bread that has been taken, blessed, broken and then given for the life of the world. And the more deeply that we live into this awareness, we become participants in what God is doing to renew the earth and to restore creation to its original beauty.