July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
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.
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.
[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.
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 “
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?
[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?