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From Bishop Reed

Homily for the
Mass of Collegiality

St. Vincent’s Cathedral
March 30, 2021

The word of the cross is folly to those who perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.1 Cor. 1:18

It is so refreshing that we can come together with as many as we have and worship together as a bishops, priests, and deacons.

It is an important year for us as deacons, priests, and bishops to renew our ordination vows – not just because we couldn’t gather in person last year, but I think because over the last year, we have been challenged with what it means to be an ordained minister of the Gospel in a society that was nearly shut down and in an age of social media with so much social separation at the same time.

I’ve only been able to make a handful of hospital visits and that required me to jump through hoops. We have had to learn what it is like to preach to an empty room while others are listening and watching online. And even preaching to a congregation with masks on their face changes the dynamics of the preacher and the gathered worshippers. With spiritual communion, and one kind distribution in many places, the call to administer the sacraments has been challenging. I know of many funerals that have been delayed to a later date. There has been a challenge to carry out weddings inside the church. It seems like so much of the life of the church has been impacted.

And then some of our church buildings were located near places of protest and civil unrest during 2020. The division between races seems worse today than at any time in my lifetime. The false teaching of identity grounded in sexuality pervades our schools and young people.

Hostility towards orthodox Christianity is open and in your face and I suspect both institutional and personal persecution of Christians is on the horizon in our culture. We see the continued unraveling of the Anglican communion over false teaching and immorality. Even gafcon relationships are strained as we gather here today.

I think we live in a very challenging age to be serving as ordained leaders in the Body of Christ. And I know with social, political, health, and church upheaval, the people of God look to us for answers or at least steady leadership while navigating these storms.

The best way to navigate these storms is to set the course, to cast the vision to move forward, and then to be faithful to that course, relying on God’s provision and protection and power to see us through.

I think we all know what it means to renew our vows, but let me play with that word for a moment and see if maybe something hits you; here are some synonyms or similar words to that of “renew”: restart, resume, carry-on, refresh, reenergize, re-empower.

We are told by St. Paul that the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. With this reality, and as we renew our vows during these challenging times, we must remember that we have been given the power to live out the Gospel , to share the Gospel, and to speak the words of hope of the Gospel to a culture that is so lost, and broken, and hurting. St. Paul’s words to the church in Corinth ring as true today as they did back then: “For the word of the cross is folly to those are perishing, bot to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

St. Peter calls us to always be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within us, and St. Paul calls us to speak the truth in love. With one in seven Christians living under persecution, roughly 300 million people, if we read the signs of our times in our own culture, things could get even more difficult for those of us who hold to and live out the faith once delivered to the saints.

Jesus reminds us that we don’t need to worry about the words we will say when we are brought before the authorities and the rulers of this age. The Holy Spirit will give us the words to say. On the cross, Jesus turns the other cheek and asks God the Father to forgive those who tortured and executed him. Our neighbor may hate us for what we believe and what we stand for, but our response is to love them back. To show them Jesus in every way we can. Like St. Paul, let us commit ourselves to preach Christ crucified.

When a supposedly private Christian school bans the use of the words mom and dad, brother and sister, for being offensive, when a million humans a year are slaughtered in their mother’s womb, when more children are born out of wedlock than ever, when child abuse is up 800% since 1975, when a record number of young people are committing suicide and overdosing, we have major challenges before us, as we the Church try to respond to the needs of this culture.

We must take seriously are renewal today but even as we recommit ourselves we have to be honest that none of us can do this through his own strength. To be effective priests, deacons, and bishops we have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us submit our own wills to the will of the Father. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit to empower us for ministry. We have to rely on the Word of God to guide us in our daily calling. We have to submit our own wants and opinions to the Word of God, or we will be tossed to and fro by the winds and changes of every doctrine that comes along. To do any of this requires each of us to have a healthy dose of humility. Romans 12:3 reminds not to think to highly of ourselves:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

So we need humility but we can still have confidence. Not in our own strength but in the strength of the Lord. Our confidence comes from his call in each of our lives.

Isaiah testifies in our reading today that God called him from the womb and named his name and made his mouth like a sharp sword. God has called each of us from our mother’s womb, to be deacons, priests, and bishops, to serve the Body of Christ for the sake of the world in this time and in this place.

Today we stand together before God and renew our commitment to serve Him faithfully, to stand for the truth of the Gospel, and to do all that we can to share the transforming love of Jesus with those around us. Jesus says to us today in John’s Gospel, he who see me sees him who sent me. Let us do all we can to show the world Jesus.

Elevation of the host