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ECUSA Primate Sermon

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One of the fruits of the liturgical movement of the last century born within
the monasteries of Europe (which has profoundly affected patterns of worship
in the churches of the West) has been the recovery of the understanding of
baptism and the eucharist as a proclamation of and participation in the
paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. While we are familiar
with the cross and resurrection, the intimate connection between the two
sometimes escapes us, and produces a skewed understanding of what it means
to live the Christian life. There are those who focus on the cross as the
sign of human sin but never go through the cross into the new and abundant
life of resurrection. And there are those who see everything from the
perspective of the resurrection without being mindful that the new freedom
it imparts can become distorted and allow evil to masquerade as an angel of

The paschal mystery embraces both the cross and the resurrection in a double
dynamic set forth in the gospels and the apostolic letters, particularly
those of Paul, in which the paradox of authentic discipleship is proclaimed:
we enter into life by dying; we find by losing. And it is as we face our
essential poverty before God that the way is opened for us to experience the
riches of Christ's grace - a lifegivingness, which as Paul knew well, comes
to full term, is made perfect, in weakness.

This weakness, this poverty is not, however, an invitation to some sort of
passive resignation, but rather it is revealed to us in the midst of active
engagement: in the midst of "insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities
for the sake of Christ," (2 Corinthians 12:10) as Paul tells us. "For
whenever I am weak then I am strong;" not with the strength of my own
psychological, intellectual or physical effort, though they may certainly be
called into play, but with the strength of the risen Christ: "I can do all
things through him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).

In the letter to the Hebrews we are told that "Although [Christ our high
priest] was a son, he learned obedience through what the suffered." What is
obedience but the capacity of listen intently for God's desire at the heart
of our lives and the circumstances that life sets before us: not what do I
think given the limitations of my mind and heart, but what does God yearn
for, what is God's project, what is God's imagination seeking to bring into
being. This kind of deep and costly availability to God's desire - listening
to what the Spirit is saying - invites suffering: the crucifixion of the
attitudes and opinions, the unacknowledged biases and prejudices and fears
that keep us from entering into that open space spoken of in the psalms
where all is reconciled according to God's own truth and justness. "In
Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself" and to us, through
baptism, has been given "the ministry of reconciliation."

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