Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

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.

We are here at Emmanuel church to welcome the interim rector, the Rev. Joel Miller and his wife Christina. Here, we gather to empower this priest to serve as your rector in the interim. So, let me take a few minutes to explain all of these terms. While there are dictionaries for all of these terms, I won’t send you to one!

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 order 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.

But in the very first centuries, the bishops were also the presbyter of the church, they were they rector. Because there was only one church in town, it was a secret society, and it was after the liberation of the church by Emperor Constantine which was not such a bad event, since we were pretty close to being wiped out under his predecessor, Diocletian. After the liberation, the church grew very quickly, so the bishop said, well we are going to take a presbyter and send him out in our place in our parishes, and it has been that way ever since.

So, the rector stands in the bishops stead. Then along came the Episcopalians of the 18th century, and they were all fired up by these new democratic ideals, so they threw in the vestry -- the parish council, as it is known here -- and the vestry of an independent church that is to day a parish has some control over who becomes priest. And so, an interim rector is appointed by the bishop with the approval of the vestry, and the vestry, with the approval of the bishop, will elect your next rector. So, what does a priest do in a congregation? Preach the gospel, proclaim the Good News of Christ, stir up hope in the people. Preaching the word of god is one of the important things that the deacons share in. Administering the Sacraments, Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and the other ones: Reconciliation, Holy Matrimony, and so on. Sharing with ordination with the Bishop, anointing the sick, visiting the poor, visiting the shut-in and seeing to it that they receive Holy Communion, with the help of the deacon, and teaching the faith. It is one of the canonical responsibilities with the priest in a parish, is to teach the faith. Something that deacons are not require to do. Above all, we need to care for people, all who walks in the door, and not just the work of the priest, but also the whole congregation. But the priest needs to lead us in doing that. So, it is a big job.

LISTEN TO THE SERMON

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

[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.


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