Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

The Fifth Sunday after Easter, 2013
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

Let us pray: O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God and the heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech thee, that having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

 

This is the fifth Sunday after Easter, a day we call Rogation Sunday. Traditionally, this time was devoted to blessing the fields and asking God to provide a bountiful harvest. The term “Rogation” comes from a Latin word meaning “to ask.” And it is on this particular day we hear the words from John's gospel: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Rogation days, which extend through Wednesday, are also a time of preparation for Ascension Day, a feast day that will occur this coming Thursday. In the past, many people would fast in preparation for the great feast of the Ascension. But, above all, we ask God at this time to bless the earth and to provide for fruitful seasons. The earth is His creation and we pray that we may be worthy stewards of His world.

 

We also pray for fruitful seasons in the life of God's church. The church is His as well and we pray that we will be good stewards of the riches given us in His holy church. The past two weeks have been very busy one for the church. Our diocese has been host to formal meetings of the House of Bishops and Executive Council, informal meetings of members of the College of Bishops, times of prayer and reflection, as well as several lunches and dinners. God's people must, after all, be well fed for the arduous work of the church. And we were well fed indeed. There was a sumptuous banquet and lunches featuring food from at least four continents. There was the obligatory visit to Texas Roadhouse. Then, on Friday, there was that trip to Faneuil Hall Marketplace where we could feast on traditional New England fare like clam chowder, crab Rangoon and curried eel. Some of us welcome the period of fasting that Rogationtide offers us, however brief it may be. Of course, the centerpiece of all our activity over the past several days was the consecration of two bishops. The Rt. Rev. Owen Williams was consecrated on the evening of April 25 at Trinity Pro Cathedral in Rochester, New Hampshire. On Saturday morning, April 27, Bishop James Hiles was consecrated at Saint Paul's Parish in Brockton, Massachusetts.

 

The consecration of a bishop is an important event in the life of the church. And it causes us to remember our own journeys, just as we confront our hopes and fears for the future. When I was consecrated bishop some six and a half years ago, I had no idea what I might expect from this office. Yes, I had some perspective, having seen bishops at work. They were the guys with pointy hats. Some of them carried sticks and you had to have a bishop in order to be ordained. They tended to preside a lot. The canons were somewhat helpful; they told me what was involved in the episcopal election process and the episcopal governance of a church. The canons spoke of the bishop as teacher. The ordinal was also helpful; it told of the responsibilities a bishop would undertake once he was consecrated. It gave something of a picture, but that picture was incomplete. It was a simple sketch, kind of a line drawing before the colors were added. These would be added over time as the episcopal ministry took shape.

 

But at my consecration, I was given some solid advice. From an old and very experienced bishop. And it went something like this: you do not know what it is like to be a bishop. You will never know until you have served in the episcopal office for some time. The only thing that is clear at this time is that God has called you to this office. You may not know why. But you will discover why. You only need to be faithful to the calling. I haven't forgotten that. And I passed it on to our brand new bishops. You may not know right now why you have been called to this office. But you must remain faithful.

 

Did they believe me? Maybe. But I know they will understand over time.

 

When Jesus knew He was about to finish His earthly ministry, He said something very similar to His disciples. His hour was about to come when He would leave them. He told them a bit about their future. But the rest was unclear, hidden from their sight. They did not know the future. None of us do. That is left to God. But Jesus did tell them that, despite all that they might encounter, all would be well. He left them with words designed to bring them peace, to reassure them, to remind them that even in the the most difficult moments He would be with them. He reminded them that, even though He would leave them, He would not be alone, because He would be with the Father.

 

That's a lot to absorb. That's a whole lot for simple human beings to comprehend. That's a whole lot of theology for even the brightest theologian to explain in less than several volumes of systematic theology. But Jesus, though He leaves His followers with a simple sketch of the future, He expresses His love for His followers in ways that will embrace them even in His absence, even during times when they neither see nor hear Him. He leaves them with words of love that will follow them and nurture them down through the years. As they fill in the brilliant colors of their own ministries.

 

Has there ever been a parent or a teacher who has never said to a child or a student: “you may not understand this now, but someday you will.” This is what Jesus says to His followers on a particular day in Galilee. But just like a good parent or teacher, we know that there are some things that cannot be told to others; they simply must be learned and experienced over time. They must know through their lives, lives lived in the presence of Jesus Christ. Just as our new bishops will live into the fulness of their ministries over time, so will each of us come to know the purpose for which we are truly called as we follow faithfully our own individual journey with Jesus Christ.

 

Let us pray: Send, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in all our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into all truth; through Jesus christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.