- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by the Rt. Rev.Jane Dixon, bishop of the Diocese of Washington, during the diocesan convention this past weekend.

Some years ago, one of the most outstanding and most sought-after preachers in the Episcopal Church, Dr. Verna J. Dozier, was late in arriving at the consecration of a new bishop whose sermon she was to preach. It was due to a delayed flight. She brought relief to then-Presiding Bishop John Allin, who greeted her by announcing to the gathered laity and clergy: "Verna, thank God the preacher is here. We could not have begun without you."
The ever-direct, ever-candid ever-profound student and teacher of the Bible looked at the man in cope and miter and replied, "Bishop Allin, no sermon is necessary if the people truly hear and understand the Scripture which is read." I have tried in my 20 years as a preacher to pay some attention to that Verna proclamation. I chose the lessons for this liturgy because I believe these three give us the narrative of God's action for us; the reassurance, security and courage we seek; and the mandate to which God calls us.
In the reading from Deuteronomy 26, we have the credo of the early Hebrew people. This declaration of faith reminded the small and struggling band in the desert of God's intervention in the lives of their people bound in slavery in Egypt; people who were delivered from that bondage to a temporal Pharoah; and made present to a God who made them free and gave them a land bountiful and lovely. These few words also call the people to their response to God's saving action. They were to return to God the first fruits of the ground that had been given to them.
I believe it is imperative for us tonight as we join in affirming our faith in the words of the Apostles' Creed to understand that this even-more-ancient creed is our credo as well.
We must always remember the four important tenets of this statement of faith: God acted first on our behalf; any form of slavery is a stench in the nostrils of God Almighty; while God gives us a good Earth in which to live, the Earth is God's and we are the stewards; and always, always, the first fruits belong to God, given with thanks for God's act of freedom for humanity.
In the Epistle to the Romans, the theological masterpiece of Paul, that difficult and dazzling apostle, this passage [in Chapter 8] gave to that early struggling group of people, new to the community of faith known as Christians, the assurance they needed to face the reality of death. God was for them, so for them that God have His only Son. God did not withhold Him. And if God gave His Son, would not then God give them all they needed? And that nothing, no, nothing, not even death itself could separate them from the love of God.
Like the credo of ancient Israel, this declaration of Paul, the converted apostle, is for us here tonight. In the troubled world of the year 2002, when we as a nation are once again at war, this time with an enemy we cannot find, much less defeat, in a world where we are striving to understand and to respect people of other religions, in a church where competing theologies and polities cause us grief; we, like the Romans, yearn for the declaration that God gave His Son for us. That our salvation is secure. God's Son, Jesus, hung on the cross for you and for me.
He bought our redemption, He rose from the grave. Nothing, no terrorist of any kind, no theological nor human contention not even our worst enemies of sin and death can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are eager to follow the One who first loved us. We know that it is costly, yet we know even more: that the promise of following the risen Lord far transforms any cost. The time has now come to profess this faith.

Next week: A sermon by the Rev. Restine Jackson at Word of Grace Church in Capitol Heights.

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