July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
Bishop Pierre's Sermons
[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.
The letter of James is something that we hear only once every three years, and it is worth remembering that two of our sacramental practices are based on this Scripture: the anointing of the sick, which when I was a boy was called Extreme Unction and was supposed to be reserved only for the dying (but is now much more the sick), and the other is the sacrament of reconciliation also known Penance. If you will take your Italian books and open to page 253 in the BCP, you will see this title, Ministration to the Sick, or if your prefer, 'minister per i malati.' This is based on this letter of James that we read today.
I like to speak briefly about the Kingdom of god or and the Kingdom of Heaven, as it is referred to in the Gospels. What is this Kingdom? Where is it? Who belongs to it? Well, first of all, we modern people do not have kings, unless you are British, of course, and even there, we do not think of monarchs as being in charge of our lives. The Kingdom of God. How do we translate that? Well, modern people say the ‘Rule of God’, ‘the reign of God’, where god is, where God’s will is done. Jesus tries to get this across in many different ways. The Kingdom of God is like a man who sows a seed on the ground, that sprouts, and then he takes a sickle to it. Or like a mustard seed, a tiny little thing, and when you sow it into the earth, it grows into a great big bush.
I have been to 14 conventions of the CECE; this is the fourteenth. The closing Eucharist, to me, has always been a mixture of gladness and happiness...happiness that Convention is over, and sadness, as well, that it is over, because Convention is the only time when others who belong to our scattered jurisdiction can see what I, as Bishop, get to see on a regular basis: the energy, the vitality, the intelligence...and the sheer talent that our churches are blessed with. Faithfulness, outstanding outreach ministries…it is all here, and yet, the Convocation is still very much under construction, and it always will be. But today is a day to celebrate who we are, and to celebrate that we are able to be with our brother and colleague, Bishop Jorge Cabral, bishop of the Lustianian Church – the Portuguese-Anglican church, and with all of the clergy assembled here.
It is a great pleasure and privilege to preach the Gospel here with you today, and to share in this wonderful celebration of the Holy Eucharist. As I was thinking about this --I was told that I had nine minutes maximum -- I thought that I would preach on something that I have never preached on before today. In the middle of the Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, what you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ We normally call this the power of the keys – remember St. Peter was given the power of the keys – and every bishop’s shield, including mine, has a pair of crossed keys in it. It is the power to loose and to bind.
[The American Cathedral] The baptism of Karim and Isabella. Baptism is, of course, is always a new beginning – a new creation, in fact. Paul says, "If anyone is in Christ, that one is a new creation." "The old has passed away, behold the new has come," he wrote to the Corinthians. Looking at today’s Epistle from the Romans, if you will look right in the middle of the text, you will see this quotation from Psalm 44. "We are as sheep being led to the slaughter. We are being killed all the day long"…and so, on this day of baptism, there is a new creation at the same time that there is killing going on.
The Gospel According to Mark. It is only in the 20th Century that the church really began to pay attention to this gospel. it used to be thought that Matthew was the first gospel, and then Mark, which was a sort of a précis - a summary of the first gospel. It was then followed by the great Gospel of Luke, and then the mystical Gospel of St. John. But it became very clear, that as people did more research, that Mark was written first, sometime in the year 65-70 AD...right after the emperor Nero began to persecute Christians. Notice how it begins, the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You notice that it starts with John the Baptist.
When we preach on Trinity Sunday, of course, for the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity...we have to clear some things away. We have the four relations, the three persons, the two processions, the One God. What does that mean? We look in the catechism, it does not provide much help. "What is the Holy Trinity? The Trinity is One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." And we continue to look for meaning in various other places. For instance, in the historical documents (pg. 864 BCP) there is an excerpt of a creed we used to use all of the time -- the creed of Athanasius. It is normally called the Quicunque Vult.
It is a great pleasure and privilege to be here today at the Church of the Ascension in Munich, one of the crown jewels of the Episcopal Churches in Europe. It wonderful thing, in particular, to confirm these six excellent young people and to watch them as they make their profession of faith, accepting their vows of baptism on their own behalf, and sending them forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to love and to serve God, and people for the rest of their lives.