2018 Convention Eucharist. Sermon

Good Shepherd, always beside us; your rod and staff our comfort, your cross ever before us as our guide. Loving Shepherd, may I sing your praise within your house forever.

I would like to thank each of you for your faithfulness, ministry, hope, and love. Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, all of the diocesan committees, the Cathedral Staff and volunteers, each of your ministries in the churches, the clergy, the faithful laity, and of course your staff of the diocese.  I am blessed by you.

My gratitude for allowing me to walk with you and serve you as your Bishop. There is a Spanish phrase. Me encanta la Iglesia.  I love the church. I love our church, this beautiful body of Christ from the depths of my heart.  This address is about the heart.  

At Lambeth Anglicans from across the world shared ministries, opportunities, and hope as the Gospel is being lived in Africa, Hong Kong, South India, Latin America.  I shared our sacred ministries and how we are stepping forward in faith, into a field that is cultivated, nourished and sown.  A beautiful spectrum of Christians.  Heart to heart. No divisions or arguments.

Nor the old refrains of money or fear. In that room, I felt a oneness with them and Christ.  In Bible symbolism, the heart is the eye of the body.  Notice, we often discount the heart. The world attempts to confine the Church even God in our head.  To define, rationalize or control.  Yet we know there are things only the heart can comprehend.

I represented our Church at the Canonization of Oscar Romero. At the Vatican, Anglican Bishops were embraced and seated less than 20 feet from the Pope.  Being present for St. Romero, standing near the bones of the Apostles caused tears to well.  The Pope, I found a servant and holiness.  I looked out onto St. Peter’s Square, past the Royalty, politicians, and Cardinals and focused on the tens of thousands of people.

God’s creation from every race and status were gathered.  This is the universal church.  We were rejoicing and praying together.   Only the heart can comprehend. The tears flowed.   I held you present.  I was one with them, and they were one with you. I prayed for you, my beloved diocese.  I prayed for the words to say at this convention. 

How to express the glorious hope found in this place and our common life over the past 2 1/2 years. How do I speak heart to heart? I did not sleep and bounded to church the next morning.   On the way, I looked into the eyes of a man begging, and he smiled at me.  Are these the words Lord? I entered a church designed by Michelangelo and built on the ancient Roman Baths. 

Majestic art, soaring domes and magnificent light.  Yet, an emphasis on science.  A large meridian line running down the center commissioned in 1700 by the Pope to check the accuracy of the Gregorian Calendar.  Sundials, calculations, and equations. Matters of the head. 

I want the heart.  I asked aloud - really Lord? I turned, and a ray of light illuminated a pendulum.

I walked over and read the sign explaining Galileo’s discovery.  As a boy, he was fascinated with time.  He tied a stone to the length of a string, affixed the string to wood, fastened and pushed.   He noted the regularity of the oscillations.  He built the pendulum to beat like his heart.  The wording concluded  “And so, starting from his heartbeat - the heart as a measure of time.

Galilei opened up new horizons for humanity.”   A Stone transformed into a heart. I shouted, “yes, Lord.” The mind attempts to explain, but only the heart can comprehend.  This is the new horizon in this diocese.  Hearts pulsing with God, one another and the world.  

Our Gospel verse is the ending of the beatitudes Jesus is giving us the direction, courage, and heart to live them out.  The path to finding the way.  To step forward and follow him.  We live in a changing world and the Church of the 20th century is becoming the distant past.  For many this is frightening. We also know we cannot go back to the way things were.  

A blessed opportunity. 

For the salt to regain, it’s taste, a light to shine upon the world.   Our church is alive and hopeful.  We are called to the heart of Jesus Christ.  What does this mean? To risk everything on Jesus, the willingness to keep growing, the courage to be innovative, the readiness to risk failure, the openness to trust.  

To move from our heads into our hearts.  

There are millions who are not in church, the field is ripe.  The faith to abandon previous behaviors, actions and beliefs that we know are unhealthy and destructive to the body.  Emptying ourselves and be filled with God. Holy Transformation with hearts beating as one.  

Being called to the heart of Jesus is our collective call to holiness.  
Bishop, clergy, laity - and the church.  Individually - how we live as people and how we live with one another.   Corporately as a church - our words, presence, and actions. Universally - how we respond to the world.  We must search within and transform whatever is holding us back.  Morally, physically and spiritually.

Anything that is keeping us from grasping the hand of the Holy One and being led by him.  This is a narrow holy door, but he is calling.   Our life together with the world cannot be apart from a deep faith and rootedness in Jesus Christ. We must spend time with God, real-time, with God. Prayer cannot be something we do, it must be something we are.  

As naturally as breathing.  Remember the first time you encountered Jesus.  When you felt His gaze and his presence.  If we do nothing else, remember that moment and every moment, and everything we do shall glorify the Lord.  Don’t be intimidated by holiness.  It is found in the simple, everyday actions and interactions.  

Small gestures are always holy through the love of Jesus. When was the last time we got down on our knees by the side of our bed and prayed like a child?  Remembering where it began will help us figure out where it ends.  I ask that we not lock God in our head.  To explain, break down, make our point, win an argument or control.  We pick apart the living word until our minds are exhausted. 

We often miss the meaning of the Gospel by 18 inches - from the head to the heart.  Hold the Holy Mystery.  Let’s reclaim reverence. Prayer, forgiveness, hope, grace, trust, community - love; things only the heart can comprehend.  This is what differentiates us from every other institution out in the world. 

Let us cease treating the church merely as a place of business, or transactions  - it is the living body of Christ.  If God is only a part-time thought amid the structure and bureaucracy and we are so worried about  Statistics and money that we forget God, no wonder we are anxious and worry.  The spread of Christianity was by fascination, holiness, and faith.  A different life in Christ. 

We face the same obstacles and opportunities that have faced Christians for over 2000 years.  Faced this diocese in the 1700’s,   The heart of Christ beats with hope and let us show the world Christ.   Let’s turn each act of this diocese into a living prayer because your lives make it holy.  

We hold the only message that can give people what their hearts need most, which is hope.

People are fascinated by this Jesus, let’s proclaim Him. Then let’s go further.  Let us create a place not only of welcoming of belonging. For every person, regardless of color, race, social condition or economic status.  There should be no minorities or differences in the church.

Through evangelism, outreach and mission let us show the world that the living body of Christ has not forgotten them.   The world seems to tire of the words of a church that does not represent a better life a transformational life.  If we are not working in the fields, neighborhoods and the world, then we are not the church.  

A ministry of presence, the living mystery of Christ.  Maybe we should call evangelism, mission, and outreach our life of sacred presence in the world.  If we are not addressing the pain in the world through mission or holy presence, we are not the church. If we are not the church, then our heart is not beating, and that salt will never regain its flavor. 

Let Jesus disturb our hearts. They should break if one person is poor, is one child is hungry, if violence overtakes our community if a person is suffering, homeless, if racism, classism, sexism, or any ism exists.  We must be a place that addresses violence, such as gun violence and the murders in Pittsburgh and across this country.  We must be a place of belonging and peace. 

There is growing xenophobia and a climate of hate, we must be the voice against hate.  We must also call out hate language and xenophobic, misogynistic rhetoric of any person or institution we encounter.  The living body of Christ has the responsibility to name bigotry as a sin. Let our hearts have the courage of Christ.   We cannot just call people to church.

We must go to them.  We cannot be a church that stays still.  If we remain locked within our walls, we will suffocate. The church grows, only when it goes. Let us go to the frontiers of poverty and exclusion.  Go to those who feel they are the furthest from God.  Leave no one behind. If they don’t come to church, we must go to them.  

As part of continuing diocesan journey of “remembering” ourselves as the Body of Christ, we must strengthen our bonds to one another.  We cannot serve, forgive, reconcile, heal, and love the world unless we do so with one another.  If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. Let us continue to walk the path of reconciliation and heal. Let us into love. 

Let us strengthen our bonds to the broader church. Each of you is part of your church, your church is part of this diocese, this diocese is part of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion. There is something powerful and holy sitting with our sisters and brothers at General Convention or throughout the communion.  

We are not alone, we are one, and we find strength acting as a body. Independence is a value of our culture, but it is not a gospel value.  As your Bishop, I am called deeper in prayer and holiness.   My call is to be a Pastor to the clergy and a Shepherd to the laity. I am firm in the belief that a shepherd should smell like the sheep.  Each day I seek to be with you.

Each meeting, visitation, I look into your eyes and see hope, faith, and I see Christ. I am your servant.  This call is not about me, it is about you, God and how the world sees Christ through our journey together.   To labor together in the field, nurture and plant the seeds.  You have helped me learn to become a Bishop.  

As a shepherd, I have learned that a shepherd at times leads but also a shepherd walks in the middle with you and walks behind gently guiding, always watching, toward a place of nourishment and fulfillment. It is a humility that is deepening and a commitment that emphasizes you, collaboration, journeying as a flock following the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ.

This is your diocese.  This is our diocese.  This is God’s church.

I will make mistakes, I have made mistakes, but they will never be for self.  I will always ask for forgiveness and then transform.  As I stated previously, there are other Bishop’s who know more than I ever will, know I will be faithful. There will never be another Bishop who loves you as I love you. It is essential that you know that your Bishop passionately believes in our Lord.

I love God with all my mind, heart and soul.  My deepest urging that intensifies daily is to be intimately united with him so that I can experience in the depth of my being, the great love of God;  so that I can allow His life to become my life.  For my beloved Priests and Deacon’s let’s revive again and again our sacred calling.  

For the laity, let’s empower you to be the new Apostles of the 21st century. I also invite you to listen for the heartbeat of God and fall in love with Christ.  Trusting that the heart will comprehend.  Hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. 

I leave you with this imagery described in a reflection (1):   If you place two heart cells from different people in a Petrie dish, they will find time and maintain a third and common beat. 

This inborn ability to find and enliven a common beat is the miracle of love.  For if two cells can find the common pulse beneath everything, how much more can full hearts feel when all excuses fall away? Yet we often tire ourselves by fighting how our hearts want to join, seldom realizing that both strength and peace come from our hearts beating in unison with one another. 

It feels incredibly uplifting that without even knowing each other, there exists a common beat between all hearts, just waiting to be felt.  I would like you to take a moment and look at the person next to you.  In their face I want you to see the church, the heartbeat of our Lord, the face of Christ. This is the church.  This is who we are - connected.  

A light led me to a sign that said Galileo with a stone transformed it into a heartbeat and it opened new horizons for time and humanity.  Let our faith and diocesan heartbeat open greater horizons in Jesus Christ.  Our hearts are not stone, no they are flesh, molded in love that reflects a beautiful light in a darkened world. Let draw near and be the heartbeat of Christ. 

Miracles will occur. For the brave heart is not discouraged, the hopeful heart that makes the best of all things.  What are we waiting for?  Pull close to the heart of Christ Let us turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.  The world is waiting. I am confident that Christ the Good Shepherd will answer our prayers and bless our work. Let us go forth, with a new spirit and offer the life and heart of Jesus Christ. There are things only the heart can comprehend.

Book of Awakening. Nepo

Popular Posts