- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given Saturday by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold at the Washington National Cathedral.

We have come together this morning as Lutheran and Anglican Christians, along with members of other households of faith, to celebrate that, through baptism into the Resurrection of Christ, we are limbs and member of Christ's risen Body, the church… .

"In the communion of saints we are all brothers and sisters so closely united that a closer relationship cannot be conceived." … Lutherans will doubtless recognize these words as those of Martin Luther… . According to the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." …

How easy it is, particularly as activist North Americans, to focus our pursuit of mission on the promotion of justice, peace and love, to overlook the centrality of prayer and worship, and to see the proclamation of the Gospel as directed toward others and fully accomplished with respect to ourselves. And yet we all stand in constant need of evangelization both personally and as ecclesial households. Reformation is not a past event, but a continual process [of] lifelong conversion, lifelong repentance, making room for the "boundless riches of Christ" and the "wisdom of God." …

"In partaking in this [Eucharistic] sacrament, all self-seeking love is rooted out," … observes Luther. Is it? Or do we tend to emphasize our singularities in order to define ourselves over against one another, thereby feeding our ecclesiastical self-love, and cry out with the tax collector in the Gospel, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people, other traditions." Christ in the Eucharist says, "No," as we "all partake of the one bread" and drink from the "cup of the blessing." …

As a feast, the Epiphany can be traced back to Alexandria in Egypt in the third century. In time it was taken up into the calendar of the Great Church of the East, where it became a celebration of Christ's Nativity, the appearance in our flesh of God's eternal word… . Why do I set all this before you? Simply to point out that while Lutherans and Anglicans and many other communities of believers subsist within the western tradition and have much of our inheritance from the Church of Rome, we do not stand apart from the ancient churches of the East from which so much of our life and tradition have come, as the Feast of the Epiphany makes plain… .

In the light of the Gospel [reading], the Magi, a "learned class in ancient Persia," … are drawn away from all that is safe and familiar their studies, their manuscripts, their instruments of observation by a star. What gives them the courage to venture forth is a deep restlessness and yearning worked in them by grace… .

Is our entering full communion an act of expediency or is it a response to yearning and restlessness worked in us by the Spirit? … We must leave home and follow the star. To be sure, there is room in our saddlebags for the Augsburg Confession and the Book of Common Prayer, but a great deal will have to be left behind, particular attitudes and self-perceptions which keep us from joyfully welcoming one another… .

There must have been times along the way when the wise men rued the day they had left home … just as the costliness of full communion as we live it in all its concreteness and incarnate awkwardness [may] make us yearn for the safety of our old singularities. The divine imagination exceeds all our effort to comprehend and contain it, and what use God will ultimately make of our ecclesiastical arrangements or where they will take us or require of us in the days ahead, may well surprise us all… .

Given the sea of technicalities we must navigate in full communion, it is important that we begin our journey by kneeling with the wise men to offer our sins, failures, fears and hopes to the risen and living One… . [May the] grace and gift of full communion transform us both as Lutherans and Episcopalians [so] that we become an epiphany, a manifestation of reconciling love as service to the least as well as the greatest.

Next week: A sermon by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington.


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