June 6 sermon: Archbishop Fred Hiltz
The Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration for Three Hundred Years
of Continuous Anglican Presence and Worship
Exhibition Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia
June 6, 2010
The Sermon – Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
Several years ago, shortly in fact after I had become Diocesan Bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, I received a letter from Austin Munroe. He had been Dean of the diocese and Rector of the Cathedral Church of All Saints for many years. His letter drew to my attention that 2010 would mark the 300th anniversary of continuing Anglican presence and worship in these parts and the 100th anniversary of the opening of the cathedral. He offered to help me put in place a committee to make plans for these celebrations.
Austin lived to see the discernment of a theme, “A Journey Just Begun” and the commissioning of a pictorial history of the diocese. He saw the crafting of the tricentenary cross and the design of a commemorative set of vestments. He saw the naming of a legacy fund for training lay people for a variety of ministries in their parishes. He saw a growing enthusiasm across the diocese for the marking of this milestone in our journey as people of faith. And in all of this he rejoiced.
Although he did not live to participate in this celebration today, I cannot help but think our dear friend is smiling today. He and so many others – all those in whose loving memory wine and hosts, communion linens and flowers and Orders of Service have been given to the Glory of God – all those bishops and priests and deacons and faithful men and women, young and old, rich and poor whose lives were given to the ministry of the Church in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. They are as we say “our friends above,” and they are smiling as they see us gathered in this great service of thanksgiving and witness. They surround us with their presence and their love. In this Holy Eucharist we are united with them in prayer and praise and in a vision of the world reconciled and renewed in the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We have come together from one end of the diocese to the other. We come together from coast to coast to coast, to give thanks to God for all our forbearers in the faith, all those who braved the seas and crossed the Atlantic. They came in great tall ships and in fragile barks. They knew calm and storm and drenching spray. Time and again they felt the winds of God and lifted their sails. Time and again they trusted in the Lord to be their guide and song,
“Great Pilot of my onward way Thou wilt not let me drift.”
And so they arrived on these shores, carrying the Gospel in their hearts. Steadfast in their labours, they laid the foundations for the Church in the eastern part of this vast country; “and they did not build in vain” for strong has been the witness of the Church in these parts; and significant the contribution of this diocese – its bishops, clergy and laity to the life and work of the Anglican Church of Canada – at home and throughout the world.
The readings chosen for their tricentenary are just wonderful. David’s prayer – Peter’s Counsel -Jesus’ Word. They evoke images of a people called to holiness of life; a people called to be one in Christ; a people called to be on the move.
The Old Testament reading in David’s prayer for the people – David had long dreamed of building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, a holy habitation where the Lord’s presence would abide forever. He not only dreamed of a house for the Lord but he provided for it. Out of the wealth of the Kingdom and out of his own personal wealth he provided gold and silver, and bronze and iron, and wood and marble and onyx and other precious stones. Out of all with which he had been blessed by God – he gave generously. And having done so invited others to do the same – to make their offerings and in so doing to consecrate themselves to the Lord their God.
The Scriptures tell us that the commanders and officers of the King, the leaders of the tribes and the heads of the households made their free will offerings. Then all the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for “with a whole heart they had made their offering.”
That’s the context for David’s prayer. He blessed God for God’s glory and majesty, power and might, mercy and boundless blessing, giving strength to all. And then he prayed for the people, “I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to thee. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of thy people and direct their hearts toward thee.”
David’s prayer moves us to recall the labours of all our founders and the generosity of all benefactors. After the same desire of David to build a house to the glory of God, they built churches – all kinds of them – at the heads of inlets and bays and harbours, on hilltops overlooking rolling farmland, in the midst of villages and towns, in centres that serve industries that for many years would be the backbone of the economy – agriculture, forestry, mining and fishing and in cities that would be designated as seats of government.
David’s prayer moves us to recall with deep gratitude the labours of missionary rectors and the labours of our first bishop, Charles Inglis. His family motto : “Nisi Dominus Frustra” was drawn from Psalm 127 “Except the Lord build, their labour is in vain who build it.” In time of course it would be incorporated as the motto of The Anglican Church of Canada.
Here in Nova Scotia the foundation for theological education were laid. Here ministries were supported by the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG). Here movements reflecting both the evangelical and the anglo-catholic traditions of the Church took firm root. Here Cursillo has grown and blossomed and borne fruit. Here Teens Encounter Christ ministry has had a tremendous impact on the lives of many young people, wetting their appetite for further experiences in faith development and calls to ministry of many kinds. The compassion of the people of Springhill and many other communities throughout the Maritimes in the aftermath of the mining disaster of October 1958 moved people all across the country to respond. And that response which was generous inspired our national church to establish the Primate’s World Relief Fund, now known as PWRDF, and its 50th year of practical witness to the compassion, mercy and justice of God.
Here with others across the country we’ve seen Anglicans in Mission, generating new resources to support the work of the church in the north and overseas. Here in recent years many of you have made a “leap of faith” in support of many new initiatives focused on congregational development, stewardship education, fresh start programs, and leadership development for a variety of ministries among all the baptized.
There is so much for which to be so thankful. We come praying that, after the example of our forbears in the faith, we will be faithful, diligent and generous in our witness to the Gospel.
In the spirit of David’s prayer for the people we pray “that our hearts will be set in God and our lives directed to the doing of God’s will.”
In the spirit of the psalmist we commit ourselves to “recount to generations to come the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord and all the wonderful works he has done that they might know and the children yet unborn that they in turn might tell of them to their children.”
The New Testament reading is an excerpt from Peter’s first letter. It is that well known text in which he speaks first of our personal relationship with Christ. “Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by mortals, but chosen and precious in God’s sight.”
And then of our corporate relations in Christ, “and like living stones, be yourselves built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ.”
This image of living stones and a spiritual house is akin to Paul’s image of living members within the Body of Christ, and the Johanine image of living branches drawing their life from the one true vine.
Each in their own way speak of our life together in Christ. Each draws us into reflection on the quality of relationships within parish life, within the diocesan family, within our Church national and within our life as a worldwide communion of churches, within our life in partnership with other churches in the service of the Gospel.
For in communion is really less about structures and more about relationships. Relationships that we celebrate and endeavour to deepen in bonds of affection for one another in Christ. In addressing strained relations with the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Lambeth Conference 2008, called for transformed relationships. He described them as being “about more than warm feelings toward one another but about new habits of respect, patience, understanding fleshed out in specific ways and changed habits.” He noted the weakness of understanding our life together as simply a loosely federated group of provincial churches while at the same time recognizing the discernable dangers of centralized and homogenous communion; contrary to our historic identity and I would add to our contemporary complexion as a church of many languages, races, cultures and pastoral contexts in which the Gospel is lived out faithfully.
For us communion is about endeavoring to see and honour the Christ who dwells within each one. It’s about coming to the table and remaining there. It’s about commitment to conversations and listening for the voice of the Spirit. It’s about an abiding commitment to pray for one another within the parish family, across the diocese, across the country, and around the world. It’s about diocese to diocese relationships through the Companion Diocese Program. It’s about principles of partnership in mission.
It’s about being drawn into the mystery of God’s being and God’s love in Christ. It’s about that mystery we know as the Eucharist. “One bread, one body, one Lord of all. One cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.”
The Gospel reading is Jesus’ word to his disciples on the day of his ascension. It’s a word of commissioning. “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” And a word of promise “Lo I am with you always, to the end of the ages.” One calls us to act the other to trust.
Worldwide Anglicans are held together by a common commitment
- To proclaim the good news of the gospel
- To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need with compassionate service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society
- To safeguard the integrity of creation
- Canadian Anglicans have proposed a 6th Mark of Mission focused in resolving conflict and enabling reconciliation within and among the nations.
We are a marked people – called to be on the move – celebrating the gospel, sharing the faith, doing works of mercy, advancing justice and peace among all people, caring for the earth.
At the heart of our work in the service of God’s mission is diakonia – the servant ministry of the whole people of God. This ministry is reflected in your commitments within the liturgy as greeters, lectors, intercessors, eucharistic ministers, deacons, priests. It’s reflected in catechesis. It’s reflected in pastoral care – caring for the sick, sitting with the dying, visiting those in prison, working with those in half-way houses, enabling their reintegration into society. It’s reflected in your work on a helpline. It’s reflected in serving those who are dependent on soup kitchens and food banks for their daily bread.
These are all examples of what is sometimes termed “compassionate diakonia.” Beside it, there is what some term “prophetic diakonia.” It calls us into the realm of political activity. A Latin American Lutheran pastor, Angel Furlan writes “We are called to tackle the causes, not just to apply palliatives to their effects. To enter the realm of political diakonia implies continuing the works of mercy to relieve suffering to denounce its causes, and do everything in our power so that what produces it is changed.”
As another Lutheran theologian puts it “Diakonia is an expression of what the Church believes and confesses – the grace of God for the healing of the world.”
Radical hospitality, generosity in gospel love, compassionate service, joy in justice and passion for peace – these are the hallmarks of a faithful living out of the Great Communion.
All that is past is as “A Journey Just Begun.” All that lies ahead begins right here and now – in this holy mystery we know as the Eucharist. From it we take our first steps into the next century of continuing Anglican presence and worship and service in these parts. We take those steps hearing David’s prayer – that our hearts be set on God. In Peter’s counsel – Come, come and be nurtured by fellowship, one with another in Christ. And In Jesus’ word Go! “Go to the world! Go into every place. Go live the word of God’s redeeming grace…. Go to the world. Go as the ones I send for I am with you ‘til the age shall end!” Amen.