Sermons 2007
Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Epiphany 1C 2007 Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

It has been suggested to me that the time has come again to address what has been happening in – or, rather, to -- the Episcopal Church in the last month. So briefly I’ll use the case of Heathsville’s St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and the secessionist Saint Stephen’s Nigerian Church because they are closest to us. And I also want to talk about how we should, as faithful Christians, relate to the people of the new Nigerian Church in Heathsville, largely because some of our former parishioners are now members of the Province of the Church of Nigeria in its CANA form – Convocation of Anglicans in North America. The Archbishop of Canterbury has NOT accepted CANA as part of the Anglican Communion. And in fact has indicated no support for its establishment. (1) It is solely a Nigerian project.

As to the facts: No final determination has been made of ownership of property and funds or status of clergy. For clergy canon law is clear: In the case of abandonment of the Episcopal Church, in following the stated canonical process, the bishop may with the consent of the Standing Committee of the diocese, strip them of their holy orders. We hope that in the other matters, property and funds, litigation can be avoided. Perhaps not; only two of the churches involved in Virginia have been willing to surrender consecrated real property to its rightful owner, the Bishop of Virginia. The others, including the Nigerian Church in Heathsville, have shown little inclination to be cooperative or to observe the standstill agreement to do nothing for a 30 day cooling off period. That then briefly are the canonical and on the ground facts.

More importantly, how do we continue to relate to people who demonize us. For those of you who have been reading the recent articles in the Rappahannock Record, you may have the same feeling that the new Nigerian Churches are in the process of demonizing those of us – by far the vast majority – who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church. It’s like a divorce case, really -- those who wish to divorce demonize the other party. And this, too, shall pass away. I have some friends in the Heathsville Nigerian church and I intend to remain their friend, although I in no way approve or support what they have done. How they feel toward me is up to them and will reveal much about them.

Roughly one fourth of St Stephen’s people voted against separation. Bishop Lee with the Chancellor of the Diocese, the Secretary of the Diocese, and members of the Standing Committee visited them in our Parish Hall the last week of December, they have signed the appropriate papers reconstituting and reorganizing themselves as St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, have had their congregational meeting, and elected a vestry. They held their first worship service New Year’s Eve Day in Heathsville Methodist Church. They really need our prayers and support. They have been run over, treated badly, and hurt deeply.

I want to stress that Bishop Lee came himself and brought the key members of the diocesan hierarchy just to reassure a small group of 33 people who were really hurting because of what had been done to them by the Nigerian secessionists. We are very fortunate to have Bishop Lee – he has never failed to respond to the needs of his people wherever they are. A good shepherd indeed.

Heathsville represents a general pattern throughout the Church as a whole. In the small number of Dioceses threatening to secede – and only one very small one has already done so – there are parishes who wish to remain Episcopalian, and in the secessionist parishes in those dioceses, there are a number of people who which to remain faithful Episcopalian Christians. So there it is.

Now a few words about Epiphany:

Epiphany is an invitation to contemplation, theological contemplation, which is spirituality at its utmost. And very timely given the temper of these difficult times in the Church. As the great Church of England Evangelical Kenneth Leech writes in Soul Friend:

There should be no conflict between theology and spirituality, still less should theology be seen as a mere theoretical framework for spiritual life. Rather all theology is contemplative, a concentrated looking upon God as revealed in Christ, and manifested in lives which are hidden with Christ. (pp. 36-37)

This concentrated looking is accompanied by a humble waiting and an openness to God. As we look and wait, the Holy Spirit helps move beyond the surface of things. The Gospel epiphany accounts bear the marks of disciples who not only heard the story, but contemplated its deeper dimensions and share it with us.. The epiphany can now become ours to see – and to share ourselves.

The wise men were willing to follow the star, trusting its guidance and meaning, but very aware of the limits of their understanding of their revelation as they seek help of those within the Jewish tradition. Herod, in contrast, is guided by fear, and finally turns to his own dark ends, the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, children. God showing up—epiphany—threatens our human power bases and our need to control.

If we are unaware of how God's presence sheds light on this dark core of ours, then we become fearful, even violent. Some can use their power as church leaders to destroy what God is doing. In our time, it’s schism, the tearing apart of the Church to serve the ends of a narrow theology. Thus the invitation to contemplation is also to being receptive to the way the infinite and unlimited God comes. Gradually we learn what it means for God to be in charge. In the silence the Holy Spirit shows us our resistance. While we may not identify with Herod, we are drawn much closer to our own territory as we become like a member of the congregation in the synagogue in Nazareth. More like the "church goers" of that day—who also turn to violence in the face of God showing up in Jesus.

However, the invitation is not to gaze upon evil. This concentrated looking is upon God as revealed in Christ, and manifested in lives which are hidden with Christ. In time we become hospitable to God and how God is with us, and among us. In our worship community, this parish, in the lives and stories of each other and ourselves, we begin to see the presence of God and the marks of God's work. We begin to acknowledge that this is not our work, but rather the work of God. Epiphany is happening. The Holy Spirit invites us to pay quiet, ongoing attention. Then we begin to know how to respond. Then epiphany happens in our own lives. (2)


1. The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS 4229, 15 Dec 2006
2. Adapted from Wendy J. Miller, “Epiphany: An Invitation To Contemplation,” Eastern Mennonite Seminary Harrisonburg, VA, SermonMall for Epiphany 1