July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
The Rt. Rev. Pierre W. Whalon
It is a great pleasure to be back here in Wiesbaden at St Augustine of Canterbury. Today is a new chapter in the life of this congregation with the inauguration of the rectorship of the Rev. Christopher Easthill. Christopher has received my letter of institution, and he is charged with seeing that the Word is preached, the Sacraments are faithfully celebrated, the Faith is taught and that you are cared for in the name of Jesus Christ. Today’s Gospel is a very famous gospel with the gathering swine running off of the cliff and drowning in the water. I believe in Britain there is an expression that if you say something is gathering, it is a blind rush. This is a very peculiar gospel story. It is about an exorcism. The church has a rite of exorcism. It is found in the book of occasional services, which contains among other things the blessing of a home, the consecration of an altar . . .
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?
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.
[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.