July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
The Rt. Rev. Pierre W. Whalon
How can we pray this prayer of all prayers, here in Paris, the day after? O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP) Yes, Jesus did command us: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). Really?
A Pastoral Address to the People of God of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
The letter of James is something that we hear only once every three years, and it is worth remembering that two of our sacramental practices are based on this Scripture: the anointing of the sick, which when I was a boy was called Extreme Unction and was supposed to be reserved only for the dying (but is now much more the sick), and the other is the sacrament of reconciliation also known Penance. If you will take your Italian books and open to page 253 in the BCP, you will see this title, Ministration to the Sick, or if your prefer, 'minister per i malati.' This is based on this letter of James that we read today.
Texas Governor Rick Perry opined a few days ago  that, had moviegoers in Lafayette, Louisiana, been allowed to bring their guns into the theater, they could have stopped John Russell Houser when he opened fire on July 23, 2015. The mentally ill like Houser should not have been able to get a gun, Perry said — the laws were not enforced.
'Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.' Thus Romans, Paul writing to the Romans. well, 'We do not know how to pray as we ought' . . . I understand that. But what about the rest?' The ‘spirit interceding in us with sighs too deep for words? It is very odd what Paul is saying here. It as if we are caught up in the life of the Trinity, and prayer comes from God, by God, to God. What about me?
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…
We spent a good deal of time together considering what are we communicating and how. I hope that you found this weekend to be of some use to you in your work as communicators, communication being the work of the church — communication being the church itself. You are witnesses of these things, Jesus says. Well, witnesses to what? There are four gospels and another source that tell us of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Besides the four gospels, of course, we have. . .
Twenty years ago, an American singer named Joan Osborne riled people up with a song named, “One of us.” The Canadian star, Alanis Morissette, re-issued it five years ago. . . "If God had a name what would it be? And would you call it to his face? If you were faced with him in all his glory, what would you ask if you had just one question?. . . What if God was one of us?"
One of my earliest memories is my mother giving me a bath in the kitchen sink. Yes, there was a time when I could fit in one, though I must say our home had a rather large sink. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, doing what a servant would normally do. Feet get dusty in that part of the world. And even today, the foot is the obscene part of the body. If a Middle Easterner does this – shows his foot -- it is the equivalent of a well-known Western hand gesture. Touching feet, never mind washing them, is deeply shameful. The disciples must have been quite surprised that their beloved Teacher would stoop to do this. Well, they were grown men, too big to fit in the kitchen sink. But those feet needed washing. And they all needed to be part of Christ, for their lives’ sake. So they first needed washing, before they could be fed.