Sermons 2006
"General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Proper 11B 2006 Mark 6:30-44

“As he went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach tem many things.”

The Seventy-Fifth General Convention of the Episcopal Church came and went last month. When it meets again the Episcopal Church will be at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. At this Convention, as in all of those which came before and as in all of those which will come after, most likely, there were an astronomical number of meals served: breakfasts for special interest and focus groups and legislative committees; lunches with former classmates from seminaries as well as with former deputies of other dioceses; and dinners of and for seminaries, provinces, church schools and universities, special interest groups, the incoming Presiding Bishop, the outgoing Presiding Bishop and other groupings. Legislation was passed which some felt did not go far enough, while others thought it went too far. Some resolutions pleased almost everyone. Other resolutions finally passed because they were born out of compromise between the two Houses, and in many instances, the final results pleased no one.

A few years ago at a time when the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States contained no women members, and long before there were women clergy, much less a female Presiding Bishop, a distinguished theologian was asked whether there were any deep theological reasons why the General Convention should refuse to admit women. He replied that quite frankly he could not think of any deep theological reason why there should be any General Convention at all. He said that matters such as these are really very peripheral in nature to God and the Gospel, and, although they are important, they are not ultimately significant. He said a theology of General Convention is as inadmissible as a theology of the papacy or of the Church Assembly. And I would add to that the National and World Council of Churches, and any other religious body overly concerned with politics and power instead of the Gospel.

Whether one agrees with that theologian or not, the real question is: "What do the actions at General Convention have to do with the Gospel?" How then should we judge the acts of the individuals who deliberated in Columbus, Ohio? It seems to me that we must judge the actions of the General Convention by the same standards as it was for our Lord who tells of the significance of his call one Sabbath as it is recorded in St. Luke's Gospel: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me," begins Jesus quoting from Isaiah 61, "because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the recovery of sight to the blind, the opening of the prisons to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And to that he added the great Summary of the Law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” These matters of the heart of the Gospel must have been among the many things Jesus in his compassion taught the crowd that day.

So this call, this summons, this summary of the law, is bound up with the afflicted, the suffering, the underprivileged, the prisoners, the disinherited -- those who are spiritually, economically, and socially captive – with those who are not like us – in short, with the compassion that Jesus had for the crowds on the shore that day. And at the same time on the other hand, it establishes the new order of things between God and human kind, and among and between humans.

Any General Convention action is only significant to the extent it that it is measured against these things.

For those deputies to General Convention who take the Gospel seriously, this means there is no creature, no idea, no institution, no nation, no issue, no action which was beyond the reach and concern of their ministry. That there is no forbidden work; there is no corner of human existence, however degraded or neglected, into which they may not venture; there is no person, however beleaguered or possessed, whom they may not befriend and represent; there is no cause, however vain or stupid, to which they may not witness; there is no risk, no matter how costly or imprudent which they may not undertake.

That is the Gospel in action! And that will be the Gospel in action after all the theologians have completed their scholarly tasks; that will be the Gospel when all of the new fads including the new-age religions, are spent; that will be the Gospel when every inter-faith dialogue has drawn up its final resolution; that will be the Gospel when every rally and political demonstration has succeeded in its goal; that will be the Gospel when every task force, committee and commission has accomplished its objectives and when every axe has been ground; and that will be the Gospel when we all have completed our marches -- many to different drummers, and some perhaps even to different places or churches.

All of the business of General Convention should be connected to the Gospel, to the compassion of Jesus, even matters of structure and administration. All resolutions should help us to proclaim the Gospel more effectively, and not just highly selected proof texts from the Old Testament. Only those things from General Convention that help us to witness to the Gospel are important. To the extent that General Convention 2006 was successful in doing that is the measure of how much it will help us to be truly a Christian in the world and help fetch the ninety and nine and bring them back to the fold.

I believe that the only change we will notice here will be the mandated use of the Revised Common Lectionary in our worship instead of the current Prayer Book Lectionary – if we notice even that. We here in this parish will be able to continue on with the work we have been given to do and which we have long begun: caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, loving God, and loving our neighbors. When there are no longer any sick, poor, hungry, homeless, disfranchised, lonely, oppressed neighbors then we might give some slight consideration to the other issues before General Convention that some others think are so grave.

“As for me and my house,” said Joshua at the great assembly of the chosen people at Shechem, “we will serve the Lord.” And so will we.


Adapted from a sermon by the Rt. Rev. Walter Decoster Dennis, Suffragan Bishop for the diocese of New York, Pentecost 10B 1997, Selected Sermons,

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