The Rt. Rev. Pierre W. Whalon

First Sunday in Advent

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.

This is my sixteenth convention among you. The first was when I was consecrated as your Bishop in charge, in St. Paul’s-Within-the-Walls, Rome, on November 18, 2001. Not many of you here today were in attendance. In many respects, it seems to me to have been only yesterday. And yet much has changed. You have changed, Beloved. Today, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe is a completely self-governing jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church, with all the structures of a diocese.

My dear sisters and brothers of the Alt-katholisch Bistum in Deutschland, I wish to thank Bischof Mathias for the privilege of speaking to you today. My ministry as Bishop started with your Church, since Bischof Joachim Vobbe was one of my consecrating bishops in 2001. Soon after that, he made me an assistanz bischof in this Church; Bischof Mathias is an assistanz bischof of the Episcopal Church in Europe. One of the most important relationships all Anglicans have is with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. Since 1931 we have been in full communion, which means that we recognize each other as true Churches. So we already work together in the one mission of the Church, to proclaim the Word of God, teach the ancient faith of the saints, faithfully administer the sacraments, and minister to the sick and the helpless. But what more can we do together?

[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.

L'horrible meurtre du père Jacques Hameli à St. Etienne du Rouvray réouvre des plaies encore saignantes non seulement pour nous anglicans, pour les catholiques, mais pour nous tous. Alors, comment réagir? Il faut un front commun de dirigeants juifs, musulmans, et chrétiens qui affirment publiquement le message central des trois religions abrahamiques: Dieu aime l'humanité.

Dear Ones, Our friends in Nice need our prayers as they minister the love of God to their stricken city. And let us pray for the dead and dying, the wounded and all who care for them, the police who had to kill the terrorist and face the horror he had created, and him too. And finally, pray and work for justice, that we might have peace.

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 “

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