Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Before I say a word about our gathering here at the Primates Meeting, I just want to say a word of thank you to you for all of your prayers: your prayers for this meeting, your prayers for me personally, both here and in my earlier sickness. We are well, and God is God, and I thank you.

Let me say a word about the meeting.

This is not the outcome we expected, and while we are disappointed, it’s important to remember that the Anglican Communion is really not a matter of structure and organization. The Anglican Communion is a network of relationships that have been built on mission partnerships; relationships that are grounded in a common faith; relationships in companion diocese relationships; relationships with parish to parish across the world; relationships that are profoundly committed to serving and following the way of Jesus of Nazareth by helping the poorest of the poor, and helping this world to be a place where no child goes to bed hungry ever. That’s what the Anglican Communion is, and that Communion continues and moves forward.

This has been a disappointing time for many, and there will be heartache and pain for many, but it’s important to remember that we are still part of the Anglican Communion. We are the Episcopal Church, and we are part of the Jesus Movement, and that Movement goes on, and our work goes on. And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people. And maybe it’s a part of our vocation to help that to happen. And so we must claim that high calling; claim the high calling of love and faith; love even for those with whom we disagree, and then continue, and that we will do, and we will do it together.

We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.

God love you. God bless you. And you keep the faith. And we move forward.

 

Before I say a word about our gathering here at the Primates Meeting, I just want to say a word of thank you to you for all of your prayers: your prayers for this meeting, your prayers for me personally, both here and in my earlier sickness. We are...

Six years ago today, a tremendous earthquake of historic magnitude shattered the lives of Haitian mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. Their cries of lamentation echoed across Haiti even as the aftershocks continued to rock Port-au-Prince and the surrounding countryside. Haiti, the poorest state in the Western Hemisphere, is also the island-home of a branch of The Episcopal Church. More Episcopal souls live and breathe in the Diocese of Haiti than in any other diocese in the world, and on this day, we stand in solidarity and solemn remembrance with Haitians everywhere.

 

We continue to grieve with families who lost their loved ones in the earthquake and with those who were affected by the cholera epidemic that still ravages the Haitian community. We express gratitude for the lives salvaged from the ruins, for the creative resiliency of the Haitian people, and for new dreams imagined and realized as the rebuilding effort continues, including in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Finally, we recognize that there is still tremendous work ahead of us to heal, transform, and sustain the country of Haiti.

 

Tens of thousands of Haitians remain displaced from their homes, subsisting in the dangerous and unsanitary conditions of tent camps. The Haitian cholera epidemic has sickened hundreds of thousands of Haitians and ended over 9,000 lives to date. Faced with these enormous challenges, we find hope and strength in our faith. The Haitians have a proverb: Bondye di ou: fè pa M or “God says to you: ‘Do your part, and I’ll do mine.’” God is at work in Haiti, moving with doctors and engineers, teachers and farmers, and reminding and encouraging us to continue our good work. Indeed, as Episcopalians, we have a crucial part to play.

 

We can hold our governments accountable for ensuring that development aid is distributed fairly and transparently, and we can call on policymakers to adequately fund the Cholera Elimination Plan that delivers much-needed supplies and vaccinations to at-risk Haitians. We can give our time, our expertise, and our funds to the ongoing effort of restoring Haiti and promoting sustainable development therein. And last, we can remember that the Haitian people are our family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and by working together with them and with our God, we can fulfill the holy task of healing Haiti. 

 

Note: On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, a diocese of The Episcopal Church, killing more than 300,000 people, seriously injuring more than 250,000, and leaving 1.3 million homeless. An extensive number of private and public buildings were destroyed including Holy Trinity Cathedral and the affiliated Episcopal institutions in the Cathedral Complex.

Six years ago today, a tremendous earthquake of historic magnitude shattered the lives of Haitian mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. Their cries of lamentation echoed across Haiti even as the aftershocks continued to rock Port-au-Prince and...
 

Christmas Message 2015

 

Hello. Our original plan was for me to tape a Christmas message in front of the United Nations building in New York as a way of sending a message that this Jesus of Nazareth whom we follow came to show us the way to a different world, a world rounded in God’s peace and God’s justice, God’s love and God’s compassion.

 

I recently had surgery and so we had to change those plans and so I’m here in Raleigh on Capitol Square. Christ Church is here and we’re filming this message here just as a way of giving me a chance to say “Thank you” to all of you who sent cards and prayers in my recent surgery.  I’m doing well and I’m coming back to work. 

 

But I did want to say something to you.  It occurs to me that this Jesus of Nazareth really does make a difference.  And God coming into the world in the person of Jesus matters profoundly for all of us regardless of our religious tradition.

 

In the park across from the United Nations, the Ralph Bunche Park, the words of the Prophet Isaiah are quoted,

 

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks

Nation will not rise against nation

Neither shall they learn war any more

 

What’s not there is another part of that passage that’s in the second chapter of Isaiah, and it says,

 

Come, let us go to the mountain of God,

That he may show us His ways and teach us His paths

 

We who follow Jesus believe that the mountain came to us when God came among us in the person of Jesus to show us the way to live, to show us the way to love, to show us the way to transform this world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends for us all.

 

So, as the words were spoken on that night when Jesus was born, peace, good will to all people, God bless you, God keep you.  A blessed Advent, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all.

  Christmas Message 2015   Hello. Our original plan was for me to tape a Christmas message in front of the United Nations building in New York as a way of sending a message that this Jesus of Nazareth whom we follow came to show us the way to a...

“Be not afraid!”  

Often in the gospels, fear grips the people of God, and time and again, either the angels, or Our Lord himself, respond with the same words of comfort: “Be not afraid.”  

In times like this fear is real.   And I share that fear with you.  Our instinct tells us to be afraid. The fight-or-flight mentality takes hold.  At the present moment, many across our Church and our world are grasped by fear in response to the terrorist attacks that unfolded in Paris last Friday.  These fears are not unfounded.  We can and should support law enforcement officials who are working hard and at great risk to protect us from crime and keep us safe.   And yet, especially when we feel legitimate fear, our faith reminds us “Be not afraid.”  The larger truth is that our ultimate security comes from God in Christ.

In the Book of Leviticus, God says to the people of Israel that, “the foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  Accordingly, we welcome the stranger.  We love our neighbor.  The Episcopal Church has long been committed to resettling refugees in our own communities fleeing violence and persecution.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries service, works with dioceses and congregations, and the United States government, to settle refugees in communities across this great country.  The Episcopal Church has been engaged in this ministry for more than 75 years.  We will not let the nightmare this world often is keep us from carrying out the words of Jesus who told us to be a neighbor to those in need.

Refugees from places like Syria seek to escape the precise same ideological and religious extremism that gave birth to the attacks in Paris.  They seek entry into our communities because their lives are imprisoned by daily fear for their existence.   Just as Jesus bids us not to be afraid, we must, in turn, pass those words of comfort to those who turn to us for help.

But Jesus calls us to go even further: not just to love our neighbors and our kin, but to love our enemies.  This is particularly difficult when we are afraid.    But even in the midst of our fear we stand on the solid ground of our faith and proclaim the faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  In practical terms, this may mean finding strength in prayer, or in our neighbors, or in our churches, or in acts of solidarity with others who live in fear.   This is the hope that casts out fear.  

The fear is real.  So we pray.  We go to church.  We remember who we are in Jesus.   Our resurrection hope is larger than fear.   Let nothing keep us from that hope, that faith, that security in Gods dream for all of humanity.

“Be not afraid!”

“Be not afraid!”   Often in the gospels, fear grips the people of God, and time and again, either the angels, or Our Lord himself, respond with the same words of comfort: “Be not afraid.”   In times like this fear is real.   And I share that fear...
Tagged in: Executive Council

Opening remarks to Executive Council
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
November 15, 2015

Got my hand on the gospel plow
Wouldn't take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hold on

My hope was to really share my deep prayer for us in the homily at Eucharist this morning. Following the way of Jesus will really guide us. And that Holy Spirit will really lead us. So, keep your eyes on the prize.

I want to say something about my new best friend at table one - President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings.  She and HOD vice president Bryon Rushing visited me in North Carolina and that was really good.  We ate together, and really started our work together.

I have said it before, but please allow me to say it again. I am very much looking forward to working with President Jennings. We've already been working together over the summer. And it's a real blessing. I also want to thank the members of the Nominating Committee and the Transition Committee for their faithful work and deep care for me and for the nominees for Presiding Bishop. And thank you to us all.

All the members of the staff, and Canon Barlowe – we have been working together.

We will keep moving.

I know there have been other General Conventions when significant things have happened. But I don't think it an overstatement to say, but the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church was a real blessing for us all. It wasn't perfect. Only God is perfect. But that Convention really did some remarkable work. It didn't just happen overnight. It was the outgrowth of many years of hard work by so many who have worked in so many ways, many of whom are sitting in this room. That Convention was the result of all of us together praying hard, worshipping, listening to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and daring to say, we're going to follow Jesus as the Episcopal Church. And with the Spirit working in us, we worked through our differences, had our debates, did a little fussing along the way, and stepped out and followed Jesus. There was a sense coming out of that convention was a clarion call

I think the Spirit is messing with us. Working on us.

I think we all heard it:  Evangelism and Racial Reconciliation.

That gives us an enormous opportunity as Executive Council, as the board of the church, to show shared leadership in following Jesus. 

That Convention gave us a clarion call and clarified our common mission in this mission moment of our life together.

It was a call for a church wide focus on evangelism and racial reconciliation as how we can live fully as the movement of Jesus in this world.

The first has to do with us. I want to talk about how we do our work together.  I am very aware and committed to us being a community of faith where the ministry what Jesus has called us to be through Baptism.   For Real.  It’s not only about what we do but it’s how we work together.

I really believe we’re better when we work together. We need all our voices and all our gifts.  It may be more cumbersome, we may bump into each other and have different ideas, but the end product is better if we’re all in on it then if somebody goes off working alone.

The end product will be better.  It is a little more cumbersome but we will get there.

St. Paul actually figured this out. In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and also Ephesians 4 he figures out the spiritual principles that can give order to the movement so that the movement actually moves forward, following Jesus.

These were the days of the movement.  It wasn’t a highly organized structure.  It was a movement with lots of moving parts.  Paul figured out the spiritual principals for the movement, the movement continues. 

It's where he called us the body of Christ, composed of hands and feet, all needed, all part of the body. But he wisely reminded the diverse gifts and parts of the body, that while there are a varieties of gifts, they are all manifestations of the same Spirit. We need all parts of the body but we need to function as a body, the body of Christ.

There really is great hope and excitement about that. But it is important for all things, even movements, to be done "decently and in order."

If Christ is the head.  If Christ is the mind, we will be moving together. Having the mind of Christ will determine where the whole body will go together.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

How do we get this all to work together.  Executive Council, the General Convention Office, The Presiding Bishop’s staff – Maybe we should step back and think – now how do we do this together.

Let me make two offerings that may help us move forward. I've shared these at the weekly meeting of the officers composed of the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, the Executive Officer of the General Convention, the Chief Operation Officer, the Chief Finance Officer.

Between now and February, I will ask the staff of the Presiding Bishop to work with me to develop a proposal that articulates a process design for how we work together, how our diverse parts might work together going forward in the work of evangelism and racial reconciliation, and in all we do.  I want to work together respecting and honoring the unique roles and gifts of each of us as members of the Executive Council, the governing board of our church between conventions, as Presiding Officers and Officers of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and as staff of the Presiding Bishop. All of us following what God is calling us to be.

I would like for us to be able to develop a process for how we do our work together in ways that early are a real partnership, genuinely collaborative, and yet honoring the wisdom of unique roles, responsibility and authority.

We will have some agreed upon clarity and we’ll talk about it in February. It is my intention to have that proposal developed in consultation with the Officers for your consideration. I think if we do this work between now and February that can enable us to then begin to move forward together.

Secondly, and this comes from how I’ve learned to work as a bishop.  I’ve been a priest a long time, and a bishop a long time. One way a bishop can help the system – and this is really the way I lead – is to have people directly connected to me helping different parts of the system simultaneously and making sure I was always connected to and aware of what was going on. In North Carolina I learned that it helped to have a few canons who were direct links between the congregations and the bishop.  We all worked together.  I would like to call a third Canon to the Presiding Bishop. As you know Chuck  Robertson is now serving as Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministries Beyond the Episcopal Church, and Michael Hunn as Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry within the Episcopal Church. Both Michael and Chuck are working together with each other and with me.

If we are really going to do this evangelism and racial reconciliation for real, we got to have some hands on the ground.  We need a third canon to do this.  This canon would be Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism and Racial Reconciliation. As with the other two Canons, this canon would be responsible for carrying out the direct ministry of the Presiding Bishop in the work of evangelism and racial reconciliation, working together with our staff and church wide community toward these ends.

I have been working with Bishop Stacy Sauls as Chief Operating Officer and we spend time all the time to move forward.  Stacy is coordinating the efforts of the staff’s work.  Gay and I are in regular contact.  Michael (Barlowe) and I are in regular contact.

I know it’s kind of a buzz word these days, but I actually function pretty collaboratively.  You discern the mind of Christ better with the body than on your own. 

So we’re going to do this together. We’re going to do the work together.

Opening remarks to Executive CouncilThe Most Rev. Michael B. CurryPresiding Bishop and PrimateNovember 15, 2015 Got my hand on the gospel plowWouldn't take nothing for my journey nowKeep your eyes on the prize.Hold on. Hold on.Keep your eyes on the...
Tagged in: Diocese of Dallas

From left to right: Bishop Suffragan of Dalls, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, Bishop Jim Stanton

Bishop Stanton walking arm in arm to lunch after Bishop Elect Sumner addressed the Convention

 

From left to right: Bishop Suffragan of Dalls, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, Bishop Jim Stanton Bishop Stanton walking arm in arm to lunch after Bishop Elect Sumner addressed the Convention  
Tagged in: Diocese of Dallas

Bishop Elect George Sumner speaking to the Diocese of Dallas

 

Bishop Elect George Sumner speaking to the Diocese of Dallas  
Tagged in: Diocese of Dallas

Diocese of Dallas gave PB Curry a Stetson and, boy, is he enjoying it! Canon Chuck Robertson is jumping in on the cowboy hat wagon, also!

 

 

 

 

Diocese of Dallas gave PB Curry a Stetson and, boy, is he enjoying it! Canon Chuck Robertson is jumping in on the cowboy hat wagon, also!        

Presiding Bishop Curry has been enjoying his time in Dallas during the 120th Convention with Bishop elect George Sumner.

Presiding Bishop Curry has been enjoying his time in Dallas during the 120th Convention with Bishop elect George Sumner.

All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2015
A Sermon Preached by the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
The Installation of the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Primate
The Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, Washington, D.C.

In the Name of our loving, liberating and life giving God:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

It really is a joy and blessing to be able to be here and for the church to gather and to ask for God’s blessing.

Allow me a point of personal privilege. I am looking forward to working with my sister the Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies. We’ve been working with each other a bit over the summer.  And I look forward to working together with her in the years to come.

I want to offer thanks on your behalf for Dick Schori, the spouse of the Presiding Bishop.

In a time when there is often debate and genuine consternation as to whether courageous, effective leadership is even possible anymore, let the record show that The Episcopal Church has had a leader in Katharine Jefferts Schori.

It is an understatement to say we live in a deeply complex and difficult time for our world. Life is not easy.

It is an understatement to say that these are not, and will not be, easy times for people of faith. Churches, religious communities and institutions are being profoundly challenged. You don’t need me to tell you that.

But the realistic social critique of Charles Dickens rings true for us even now. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

But that’s alright. We follow Jesus. Remember what he said at the Last Supper, just hours before he would be arrested and executed? “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 KJV)

As that great biblical scholar has said, borrowing from what might be Bobby McFerrin’s paraphrase of Jesus’ words: Don’t worry. Be happy!

Don’t Worry.  Be Happy.

Let me offer a text from the 17th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. 

When [the angry crowd could not find the Apostle Paul and Silas], they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)

What you have there is a First century description of the Jesus movement.  Don’t worry. Be happy!

Many centuries later, Julia Ward Howe, writing in the midst of America’s Civil War, spoke of this same movement, even amidst all the ambiguities and tragedies of history. This is what she wrote:

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
with a glory in his bosom
that transfigures you and me,
as he died to make folk holy
let us live to set all free,
while God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah,
God’s truth is marching on.

That’s the Jesus movement. What was true in the First Century and true in the 19th Century is equally and more profound in this new 21st Century.

So don’t worry.  Be happy.

God has not given up on the world,

and God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.

 I

The truly liberating truth is that Jesus didn’t come into this world to found a religion, though religious faith is important.  Nor did he establish a religious institution or organization, though institutions and organizations can serve his cause. You will not find an organizational table in the New Testament.

Jesus came to continue a movement. Actually, Jesus picked up and took the movement of John the Baptist to a new level. John was part of the movement born out of prophets like Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah. And prophetic movement was rooted in Moses, who went up to the mountaintop. Jesus crystalized and catalyzed the movement that was serving God’s mission in this world.  God has a passionate dream for this world. 

Jesus came to show us the way.  Out of the darkness into the dream.

That’s what is going on in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles — the movement! The Apostle Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, have been preaching, teaching and witnessing to the way of Jesus in the city of Thessalonica. While their message finds some resonance with many, it is troublesome to others. A riot breaks out because of the tensions. Our text describes those who are troubled by the teaching about The Way, as the Jesus movement was first called.

Listen to this description of the first followers of Jesus:

These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.  (Acts 17:6b-7)

Notice that the activity of Paul and Silas was seen not as an isolated incident in Thessalonica, but as part of a greater movement of revolution. “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also.” Paul and Silas by themselves might not have been of much consequence. But as part of a movement, they posed a problem.

This movement was perceived as somehow reordering the way things were, “turning the world upside down.”

The reason the movement was turning the world upside down was because members of the movement gave their loyalty to someone named Jesus and committed themselves to living and witnessing to his way above all else. “They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” That’s what we did at the beginning of this service when, in the Baptismal Covenant, we reaffirmed our commitment to be disciples, living by and witnessing to the way of Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

The Way of Jesus will always turn our worlds and the world upside down, which is really turning it right side up!

That’s what Isaiah was trying to tell us in Isaiah 11. He saw the dream. When God’s way is our way:

The prophet Isaiah saw this. When Gods dream happens, when the world is upside down…..

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them….
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
 (Isaiah 11:6-9)

St. John saw in his vision of the world end in the Book of Revelation. Exiled and imprisoned for his witness to the way of Jesus, John was caught up “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation1:10). He lifted up his head, and he saw the dream.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.   And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.(Revelation 21:1-4)

No more war.
No more suffering.
No more injustice.
No more bigotry.
No more violence.
No more hatred.
Every man and woman under their own vine or fig tree.
The rule of love. The way of God. The kingdom. The reign.
The great Shalom, Salaam of God.
The dream.

God’s on a mission to work through “our struggle and confusion,” as the Prayer Book says, to realize God’s dream. [i]

My brothers and sisters,
God has not given up on the world,
and God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.
We are the Jesus movement.
So don’t worry, be happy!

II

Now I know we all thought we were coming here today, via the live-stream of the internet or here in the cathedral, for the Installation of our Presiding Bishop. I thought that too until I was on the plane earlier this week, flying from North Carolina to the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

And I kid you not, a thought popped into my head: “You know this is not about you.” It sort of jolted me inside.  A lot was going on.  I was on the way to fill out employment and insurance papers. The movers were coming to Diocesan House in Raleigh. I was going to spend one last day with Bishop Katharine.

The real Michael Curry was frankly scared to death and wondering, “Did you all make a mistake?” I was stuck on a plane, strapped into my seat belt because of turbulence on the flight, and I couldn’t get off. At that moment, and I’m not trying to get mystical or anything, but at that moment something said to me, “Michael Curry, this is not about you.”

I must admit that was a moment of some sweet liberation. Because it’s not about me. It’s about God, and it’s about Jesus. It’s about that sweet, sweet Spirit who will show us the way “into all the truth,” as Jesus promised (John 16:13), who has shown us the way to be who we really were created to be.

The way of Jesus will always turn our lives and the world upside down, but we know that that’s really right side up. Therein is the deepest and fondest hope for all creation and the human family.

Just listen to what Jesus said. What the world calls wretched, Jesus calls blessed, turning the world upside down.

Blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit.
Blessed are the merciful, the compassionate.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, that God’s righteous justice might prevail in all the world. 
(Matthew 5:3-9, paraphrased)

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12)

At home and in the church, do unto others as you would have them do to you. That will turn things upside down. In the boardrooms of the corporate world, in the classrooms of the academic world, in the factories, on the streets, in the halls of legislatures and councils of government, in the courts of the land, in the councils of the nations, wherever human beings are, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That’s a game changer! “Things which were cast down are being raised up. And things which had grown old are being made new.” That will turn things upside down, which is really right side up! That’s what Jesus said and what the Jesus movement is about!

Love is the key

But the key to this turning, which is at the center of the way of Jesus, is love. Later, in the Sermon on the Mount, where our Gospel reading came from, Jesus said this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45a)

The liberating love of God is the key to the way of Jesus. Both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels tell about the lawyer or scribe who came up to Jesus one day. Great teacher, he asked, in all of the massive legal edifice of Moses, what is the greatest law? What is the cardinal principle on which it all stands? What is the goal? What is the point of it all? In other words, what is God really getting at?

Jesus answered, bringing together a teaching of Moses from the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 and a text from Leviticus 19:18. Jesus said to him,

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”(Matthew  22:37-40)

This is really a stunning declaration. On these two — love of God and love of your neighbor— hang, hinge, depend ALL the law and the prophets.

Everything Moses taught.
Everything the prophets thundered forth about justice.
Everything in the Bible.
True religion.
It’s about love of God and the neighbor.
If it’s not about love, then it’s not about God.

This way of love is the way of Jesus. This is the heart of the Jesus movement. And it will turn the world, and the Church, I might add, upside down, which is really right side up.

Let me show you what I mean. In Luke’s gospel, chapter 10, Jesus and a lawyer come to an agreement that love of God and love of neighbor is the standard of all morality. But then the lawyer says (and I paraphrase):

Ok, I’ll grant the point about love for God and neighbor as Moses taught. But we need to carefully define what we mean by neighbor.  Just how expansive or inclusive is this definition? This could have far-reaching impact. So, who exactly is my neighbor?

That’s when Jesus makes up a story, a parable. This guy was walking on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. That road was known to be a pretty dangerous road to travel at night. But this guy needed to go where he was going. As it happened, he got mugged and robbed. He was beaten pretty badly and was lying on the side of the road.  A priest was coming down the same road, saw him lying there, but for whatever reason, walked on by. Another religious leader from the community came by a little later, and probably for fear of his own safety, walked on by, too, leaving the guy on the side of the road. 

Then this Samaritan guy came by. Samaritans were not well-regarded. There was some real animosity toward them that had a long history. But ironically it was that Samaritan who actually stopped, cared for the guy, bound up his wounds, put him on his own donkey and took him into town. Then he paid for his health care and made sure the guy was taken care of until he was well.

Jesus then asks the lawyer, “Now, who was a neighbor to the man?”  Jesus didn’t fall for his question. By asking that question, Jesus reveals to that lawyer – and on down the centuries to us — what the love of God really looks like.

But imagine the same parable with slightly different characters. A Christian was walking the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and she fell among thieves. Another Christian came by, but passed on by. Another did the same. And still another follower of Jesus passed on by. A brother or sister who is Muslim came by and stopped and saw her in need and helped her.  Imagine. Who is the neighbor?

It could be a young black or Hispanic youth who is hurt, and a police officer who helps. Or the police officer hurting and the youth who helps. Imagine.

Do you see where Jesus is going?  He’s talking about turning this world upside down.

God has not given up on the world,
and God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.
We are the Jesus movement.
So don’t worry, be happy.

III

Last summer, the 78th General Convention of our Church did a remarkable thing: the General Convention invited us as a church to take this Jesus Movement. We made a commitment to live into being the Jesus movement by committing to evangelism and the work of reconciliation — beginning with racial reconciliation. Across the divides that set us apart.  I believe the Holy Spirit showed up. I was telling someone about this, and they said, “Do you realize this Church has taken on two of the most difficult and important works it could ever embrace?”

Let’s get real. Imagine “Jeopardy” or another television game show. The question asked of the contestants is this: “Name two words that begin with ‘E’ but that are never used at the same time.” And the answer? What is ‘Episcopalian’ and ‘evangelism’ ?

I’m talking about a way of evangelism that is genuine and authentic to us as Episcopalians, not a way that imitates or judges anyone else.  A way of evangelism that is really about sharing good news. A way of evangelism that is deeply grounded in the love of God that we’ve learned from Jesus. A way of evangelism that is as much about listening and learning from the story of who God is in another person’s life as it is about sharing our own story. A way of evangelism that is really about helping others find their way to a relationship with God without our trying to control the outcome. A way of evangelism that’s authentic to us. We can do that.

And this idea of reconciliation, beginning with racial reconciliation — really? 

Racial reconciliation is just the beginning for the hard and holy work of real reconciliation that realizes justice but really across all the borders and boundaries that divide the human family of God.

This is difficult work. But we can do it. It’s about listening and sharing.

It’s about God.

In this work of reconciliation we can join hands with others.

It is as the Jesus movement, following Jesus’ way, that we join hands with brothers and sisters of different Christian communities, with brothers and sisters of other faith and religious traditions and with brothers and sisters who may be atheist or agnostic or just on a journey, but who long for a better world where children do not starve and where is, as the old spiritual says, “plenty good room for all of God’s children.” We can join together to do this work. 

In evangelism and reconciliation has got to be some of the most difficult work possible. But don’t worry.  We can do it. The Holy Spirit has done this work before in The Episcopal Church. And it can be done again for a new day.

It was sometime in the 1940s, when the armed forces had not be desegregated.  Just after the Second World War. In the United States, Jim Crow was alive and well. Segregation and separation of the races was still the law in much of the land and the actual practice in other areas, even if it wasn’t technically the law there.

The armed forces had not yet been desegregated. The Tuskegee Airmen were still a unit. Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas had not yet been issued. Long before Rosa Parks had not yet stood up for Jesus by sitting down on that bus in Montgomery. Long before Jackie Robinson was playing baseball, before Martin Luther King, Jr. was still in seminary.

An African American couple went to an Episcopal church one Sunday morning. They were the only people of color there. The woman had become an Episcopalian after reading C.S. Lewis’sMere Christianity, finding the logic of his faith profoundly compelling. Her fiancé was then studying to become ordained as a Baptist preacher.

But there they were on America’s segregated Sabbath, the only couple of color at an Episcopal Church service of Holy Communion according to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

When the time came for communion the woman, who was confirmed, went up to receive. The man, who had never been in an Episcopal Church, and who had only vaguely heard of Episcopalians, stayed in his seat. As he watched how communion was done, he realized that everyone was drinking real wine — out of the same cup.

The man looked around the room, then he looked at his fiancée, then he sat back in the pew as if to say, “This ought to be interesting.”

The priest came by uttering these words as each person received the consecrated bread: The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

Would the priest really give his fiancée communion from the common cup? Would the next person at the rail drink from that cup, after she did? Would others on down the line drink after her from the same cup?

The priest came by speaking these words to each person as they drank from the cup: The Blood our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.

The people before her drank from the cup. The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ….  Another person drank.  Preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.   The person right before her drank.  Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee….  Then she drank.  And be thankful.  She drank. Now was the moment her fiancé was waiting for.  Would the next person after her drink from that cup? He watched. The next person drank.  The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee….  And on down the line it went, people drinking from the common cup after his fiancée, like this was the most normal thing in the world.

The man would later say that it was that reconciling experience of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist that brought him into The Episcopal Church and that he had an evangelism. He said, “Any Church in which blacks and whites drink out of the same cup knows something about the Gospel that I want to be a part of.”

That couple later married and gave birth to two children, both of whom are here today, and one of whom is the 27th Presiding Bishop.

We are Gods’ children, all of us.  We are God’s baptized children.   We are here to change the world with the power of love.

God really does love us.  

The Spirit has done evangelism and reconciliation work through us before. And the Spirit of God can do it again, in new ways, now beyond the doors of our church buildings, out in the world, in the sanctuary of the streets, in our 21st-century Galilee where the Risen Christ has already gone ahead of us.

Yes, the way of God’s love turns our world upside down. But that’s really right side up. And in that way, the nightmare of this world will be transfigured into the very dream of God for humanity and all creation.

My brothers and sisters,
God has not given up on God’s world.

And God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.
God has work for us to do.

Jesus has work for us to do and it’s the Jesus Movement.
So don’t worry. Be happy!

He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.

All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2015 A Sermon Preached by the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry The Installation of the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Primate The Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, Washington, D.C. In the Name of...