Christmas 2014, The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. We get “joyous” from “joyeux.” The English say “happy” Christmas, Americans have kept that lovely word “merry” alive. “Noël” is a mysterious word, not Latin or Greek or even Hebrew in origin. Originally it was a cheer when the king visited or the queen gave birth or French arms won a victory. Hooray for the newborn Prince of Peace! Joyeux Noël is also the name of a film that came out nine years ago. It depicts an event that happened exactly one hundred years ago tonight. On Christmas in 1914, French, British and German troops declared a truce in order to celebrate Christmas together...
Sunday we were blessed by the presence of Father Bernard Kinvi in our midst. He referred to the above Gospel text as God's formula for Love. Indeed, his words both during his sermon at our 10am service and during the later informal dialogue in the Parish Hall were an inspiration to enlighten “the eyes of our hearts”. Father Kinvi is a Roman Catholic priest of the Camillian Order. Immediately after his ordination in 2010, he was sent from his home country of Togo to direct the hospital at the Catholic Mission in Bossemptele, Central African Republic. He arrived there during a period of relative calm only to find himself by the end of last year in the midst of horrific violence...
It goes without saying that the Cross is pretty important to Christians. It is the chief symbol of Christian faith. It occupies a central place in our houses of worship. You may display a cross in your home. We hang crosses around our necks. Christians make the sign of the cross when they pray or make some other act of devotion. There is no question of the importance of the Cross to those who call themselves Christian. This has been since the very beginnings of the Christian movement. In fact, the Cross is one of the major themes of the New Testament. The Gospels themselves are largely passion narratives, focused on the crucifixion and on Jesus’ last days leading up to it.
The brochure outlining the various degree programs of the seminary I attended in Austin, TX had these words highlighted on its front cover…“How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” Those words served as a background to our priestly formation experience, and in the years since I’ve graduated, they have taken on further meaning for me. Arriving as part of Paul’s climactic argument in his dense, and famous letter to the Romans, the words serve to direct Paul’s hearers and readers toward the necessity of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, widely and persistently…as a sower scatters seed.
[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 American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris] “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder.” Many of you will know this African-American spiritual; many of you will have sung it at Sunday school, or at camp. It is a wonderful song. This image – this incredible image – of a ladder, or better translated, as a staircase connecting heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending. It has prompted manifold interpretations over the centuries, and great works of art...sculpture and painting, as well as song. It is a primitive, piercing-symbolic overwhelming image. We don’t quite know what to make of it. It offers...
Obedience to God. “Thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness." Paul writes to this community, which he had yet to meet, to remind them of their new life in Christ. Inherent in this new life in Christ is the death to their old life, in Paul’s words their obedience to Sin. Their new life in Christ requires them to be obedient to God, as they cannot be obedient to both sin and God. Is anyone else struck by the word obedient?
In the reading from Corinthians we heard, Paul sums up life in holy community as restoring order and living in peace – do this, he says, and you will find the holy one in your midst. The Diné call that ho’zho’, walking in beauty – the holy balance of right and fitting relationship, being at one with all of creation. The feast of Trinity we mark this weekend is about divine ho’zho’, the unity of God and the relational reality of God’s own being. For human beings, ho’zho’ is becoming part of that divine and creative balance. Throughout human history, communities have designated some of their members to encourage others to live in ways of peace, order, harmony, truth, and beauty.
[Christ Church, Greenwich, CT] "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers." Anyone who has attended an Episcopal Church, whether here or in Italy or in Taiwan, recognizes this quote from the Book of Acts. In the liturgy for Baptism, it appears right after the Apostles' Creed in what is called "the Baptismal Covenant." This Covenant is practically unique to our Church — though the Church of England added it as an option in their new rite of Baptism found in Common Worship. We repeat it at every Baptism and Confirmation, as well.