July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
[St. Columban’s, Karlsruhe, Germany] “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14: 23-29 One of our confirmands said yesterday that she has trouble believing in a god “up there.” It has been a long time since people believed that God was actually “up”.
It is a great joy to be among the parish of St. Paul’s within the Walls, Rome. The Gospel that was just read to us was traditionally used on Maundy Thursday when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. And the Latin “mandatum novum” or a “new commandment” is where the word Maundy comes from — a kind of contraction. “A new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you.” It is rather strange to be ordered to love. What does this mean?
What a wonderful treat it is to be back in Munich at the Church of the Ascension, on a glorious day when we are going to baptize four people and celebrate the sacraments. My name is Pierre Whalon, and I am bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, of which Ascension is one of the crown jewels. There are many little children in the room, so before I begin my sermon, I would like to share a story. When my daughter was about two years old, I was a priest at a parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. One of our best friends there -- a Roman Catholic priest –had just lost his mother.
[Brussels, Belgium] It has been a week for killings. I don’t imagine that the Brussels killers made any connection to Holy Week as they unleashed their terror, but many Christians will not have missed the irony. This is a week of killings, a week of conspiracy, murder and fear, a week to mourn the violent death of our friend and brother, Jesus the Nazarene. He was innocent of any wrongdoing. He did nothing deserving of death. But none of that matters when dark forces come together to accomplish their hateful task. The innocent die: like a young woman seeing off her relatives at the airport, a university student going on holiday or a worker taking the Metro to the office. Innocence doesn’t count when the executioner is doing his job.
Last night, at Harty church, on the tip of Sheppey, with the wind howling, lit by candles, warmed by one another, we celebrated the light of Christ that, full of joy and hope, we carry into a world of fear and darkness. In the shadow of Brussels, with the memory of Srebeniza, hope can seem far far away. People here will feel hope has faded because of illness, bereavement, unemployment, money worries, family breakdown. When hope fails, fear draws close, and whispers sly deceits in our minds. On Easter Day hope decisively overcame fear and Christians are called to be witnesses to the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ.
[Emmanuel Church, Genève] « … là où est l'Esprit du Seigneur, là est la liberté » (II Cor. 3.17) “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Let’s begin with this big word, transfiguration. It is little used outside Christianity. But there is what is called esthetic transfiguration, among Romantic writers, like Victor Hugo . . . Commençons par ce grand mot, transfiguration. Ça s’emploie très peu en dehors du christianisme. Mais on parle de la transfiguration esthétique, chez les auteurs romantiques, tels que Victor Hugo. Son grand personnage Quasimodo est laid, brutal, monstrueux, mais l’histoire concerne la révélation de sa noblesse, de sa beauté.
When I slow my pace long enough to take notice of the world around me . . . it is about paying attention and learning to live contemplatively. For some this may seem the domain of gaunt-looking saints and starry-eyed hermits. In fact, it belongs to anyone who sets out on the inward journey of seeing the world differently. It is about opening our eyes to the wonder that is present in and through all of creation. I suspect this is why Jesus said that God reigns only among children. Until we learn to see the world with the simplicity and honesty of a small child, we cannot know the fullness of God’s presence in and among us.
Episcopal Relief & Development is working with local organizations as well as Anglican Communion and ecumenical agencies to provide assistance in Syria and in Europe to people fleeing ongoing violence. In Europe, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe is helping to host and to resettle people in their new home countries. Churches are actively responding at a local level in Rome, Munich, Paris and Brussels, among other cities. "The way in which our 21 congregations have responded makes me very proud,” said The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. “While Episcopal churches in Europe have had significant refugee ministries since the Second World War, our people have unanimously increased their present work."
The former PB Frank Griswold –- I just realized that I am on my third Presiding Bishop, my third Archbishop of Canterbury, and my third Pope. Anyway, back in the dark ages when Bishop Griswold was Presiding Bishop, he used to say quite frequently – quoting AB Rowan Williams -- - that Baptism creates solidarities not of our own choosing. And he kept saying that he was quoting Archbishop Rowan Williams. Well, I happen to be a big fan of Rowan Williams’ writing, and am indeed honored to consider him my friend, so I wrote to him and said, “Dear Archbishop Rowan, Where did you write this? “Baptism creates solidarities of our own choosing.” And he wrote back, and said, “I don’t know but it sounds like me.” And indeed it is a very profound thing to say, whoever it was who said it.
Let me begin by wishing you a happy and blessed new year, full of fresh, new joy. In the name of God, father, son and Holy Spirit. I would like to focus today on the reading from Ephesians. Paul writes blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ, with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of his Will. That is quite extraordinary – what we have been told already – that we have been blessed. We’re God’s children by adoption, and God chose us before the world was created.