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.
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.
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.
Let your Word dwell richly in our hearts our God, to bring us light and life, and love for your son, Jesus Christ, through whom we pray. Amen. So, are you ready? You know what time of year it is. They say that Christmas is for children. I am not sure about that, in fact, I would disagree. Advent is definitely for adults. And this is the first day of Advent. It is the first day of the church year, so happy new year. I am going to spend a little bit of time talking about these traditions and so forth, but then to get to what advent is trying to point us to, which is the Gospel.
It’s pretty hot for camel hair right now. You may not have had locusts for breakfast, but I can tell you where to buy protein bars made from cricket flour. And I saw honey for sale in the exhibit area. This may be an Episcopal convention, but we are all supposed to be John Baptists and Jane Baptists. Our task is to build that straight road, knock down the privileged heights, fill in the sloughs of despair, and make the road flat enough for all God’s people – and that includes Baptists, Episcopalians, Jews, Hindus, and “nones.” We’ve been baptized into Jesus’ baptism as well as John’s, and called to the kingdom work all the prophets proclaim: to be light in the darkness, strength and comfort for God’s people, gathering the lambs and leading ewes to shelter, and showing the healing power of forgiveness. That is the road to the peaceable kingdom.
I have been on a pilgrimage of 16 years here in Italy, getting to know a little bit more Africa because I have met so many Africans while I have been living here, and indeed working very closely especially with people drawn from West Africa, from the nations of Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, just to name three. But of course, Africa is much bigger than just its west, just as in the hymn we sang moments ago. There’s north, there’s south, and there’s east as well, within the continent, that rich continent of Africa. Rich in every sense, but rich most of all as we celebrate this feast of the Holy Trinity in the way that God’s grace is poured upon it. And the praises of God resound that. Praise the Lord. Alleluia.
Today is a great day in the life of this parish, St. Paul's Within the Walls, Rome, as we come together to baptize, to confirm and to receive. We have this wonderful Gospel of John for the sixth Sunday of Easter, and it is absolutely perfect for the occasion: ‘There is no one greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' It so happens that that the King James’ version is instead often quoted as ‘greater love hath no man than this.’ It is often thought that this verse, in particular, is something fresh and new that the disciples would have had never heard before. But in fact, the ancient world believed . . .
It is my great privilege tody to be here today to confirm these eleven fine young people, to receive in the church one fine young man, and to present my official letter of institution to your priest in charge, Father Christopher Easthill. The verse of the Bible that struck me as I prepared my sermon is in the first letter of John. ‘We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.’ It goes on...‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees his brother and sister in need, and yet refuses help. Little children let us not love in speech, but in truth and action.’ The middle verse there – ‘how does God abide in anyone who has the world’s goods’ is a bit weak in the translation. King James’ men as they translated this, did it literally…