Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church. And he killed James the brother of John wit the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.
This past week was nearly one of unbounded joy and a liturgical spectacle fit for a prince — indeed a prince of the Church. Bishop Chad was enthroned as our Archbishop in a two & half hour liturgy that one rarely has the opportunity to participate in. And it was made all the more special to be there with our delegates, Priscilla King, Margaret and Garry Woody, two of our aspirants, John and Kyle, as well as Fr. Sean and Fr. Mark as well. We have a new Archbishop and a renewed vision of the our duty and opportunity to serve Jesus Christ our God and King in this present age. Bishop Chad is young and bright and effortlessly cheerful. A Duke Divinity graduate who dabbled with the lure of an academic career till he fell in love with the Bride of Christ and gave his heart to her service. Then he fell in love with Megan and ever the churchman, he proposed to her at the Altar of the Washington National Cathedral. “I got right down on me knees at the Altar — believe it or not,” he told me. She said yes and together they have made a family dedicated to Christ’s Church. They have four children — Aidan is 18, Owain (Owen) is 14, Millie (may-lee) is 11, and Caelin (cay-Lynn) is 6. Bishop Chad loves his wife and his children and he loves his clergy and his laity and he genuinely does so. Most of you have met Archbishop Chad and you have heard him preach wonderful sermons, he has confirmed many of you and your children, and has celebrated the Holy Communion here. And God willing you will see him many, many more times as the years roll on. I know this man very well and I know his spiritual life, his wisdom, and his confidence in God the Blessed Trinity and I know the hardships that he has endured. For all his very real sunny fellow-feeling, he shares the same sadnesses that are part and parcel of our common life — the betrayal of friends, his own failures, and the ups and downs of family life, finding the right place to live, figuring out how to educate our kids, raising children and keeping them safe and growing them up into happy Christian men and women. Megan’s mother died this year and her father lives alone now. Dick was a Presbyterian minister for 40 years, but they converted to Anglo Catholicism and after some study and examination he was ordained to the priesthood. So Archbishop Chad is his own father’s-in-law Father-in-God. Now this is starting to sound like an old country song. His parents are growing infirm and living with illness and disease. Though they live in Western North Carolina, he spends lots of time wth them. When he travels up this way he always stays with them a night or two and he and the family spends extended time with them in the summer and the same for M. He’s good man. A good family man. And he is a prince of the Church, consecrated an Archbishop, made an Apostle. In all of that he is an example of a Christian man that you can all be proud of and that we may all take encouragement from. He wants what we all want — to love and be love by our families, to be reasonably happy in this life, to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be supremely happy in the life to come. We are a blessed Church in the APA to have him as our Father in God. And while thinking about all this and the Feast of St. James the Apostle, I remember that wonder hymn written by William Alexander Percy, They Cast Their Nets in Galilee and I thought it was a perfect way to bring up some thoughts on the Christian life and Apostleship.
They cast their nets in Galilee
Just off the hills of brown;
Such happy, simple fisher-folk,
Before the Lord came down
There is no indication that Peter or John or James were going through a personal existential crisis when along came Jesus and solved all there problems. In fact the men all seem pretty much at peace with themselves, their families, and the Jewish ways. They were not gloomy or searching for meaning in life. They weren’t dissatisfied with their work or their station in life. If anything they were going about there work doing their jobs responsibly, raising families, building a business, worshipping, until Jesus came along and actually disturbed their’s and everyone else’s peace. This giddy notion of inward peace is a rather new concept. You cannot really find people searching for peace in the New Testament. Searching for forgiveness of our sins, yes. Healing our broken hearts and broken bodies, yes. Jesus promised rest and forgiveness and everlasting life and he did things that no man or angel could do. He did things that only God could do. And he split the atom of their social, spiritual, personal life and what they thought was peace vanished in the bright blaze of God’s glory.
Contented, peaceful fishermen,
Before they ever knew
The peace of God that filled their hearts
Brimful, and broke them too
What men thought was peace and contentment, what our world tells us is peace and contentment and important and oh so urgent is shattered by the peace of God that passes understanding. A peace that fills our hearts to the brimming sometimes so unexpected and then it breaks us. The peace of God breaks us, breaks the hold of this world’s oh so desperate trumpet, breaks the hold of old sins and shame, and breaks our self-centeredness and brings everything in life under the judgement of Christ’s Kingdom. And sometime, for some of us, it may break us to death for Christ’s sake.
Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
Homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
Head down was crucified
And St. James the Apostle we can add to that list of those who gave their life for Christ’s sake. But it is highly doubtful that any of us will die for Christ’s sake, die like Peter or James. But we are called to a greater and more difficult death than that. You all recall Flannery O’Connor who said, “I will never be a saint, but I could probably be a martyr if they killed me quick.”
Well, there you have it. If its quick, its more likely we can stand it. But the fact is that we die daily, as Paul said. This is slow motion daily dying. Dying to self-centeredness, dying to unruly ambition, dying to the siren calls of this world to be busy and be important — dying to that is not the easiest thing in life either. But the Kingdom of God is the peace of God and we are citizens of heaven first and foremost and that makes the peace of God our right by citizenship.
The Peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod.
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing —
The marvelous peace of God.
And here it is, the Peace of God is no peace, but strife that will strive and strive on till death do us part. Now that is not exactly the phrase that wins converts to Christ. Imagine the bumper sticker: “Come to Jesus, add more strife to your life, and learn how to die daily.” Following Jesus is not about the very modern misguided notion of peace of mind. The Apostles would not know what you were talking about. Following Jesus is about believing that God is and that he is who Jesus says he is — that Faith. Following Jesus is desiring the will of God, his purposes for your life and the lives of those you love — that’s Hope. Following Jesus, is about loving God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and your neighbor as yourself. Pray for our new Archbishop that God will protect him and enable him to continue seek first the Kingdom of God and lead us as a loving, faithful, and worthy Shepherd of the Church.