The Archbishop today delivered the sermon at the Consecration of Rose Hudson-Wilkin as Bishop of Dover and Olivia Graham as Bishop of Reading...
Isaiah 61: 10 – 62: 5
Philippians 3: 7 – 14
Matthew 11: 25 – end
O God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.
Today is a great day of Joyful Celebration of a seamless “trinity”.
First, it is a Joyful Celebration of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit inhabiting our praises to God the Father, as we, His adopted children, worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
Prophet Isaiah expresses this beautifully:
“I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My whole being exults in my God” (Isaiah 61: 10a).
Not only our lips but the very essence of our “whole being is joyful in God” – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“He has clothed us in garments of triumph,
Wrapped us in a robe of victory …..” (Isaiah 61: 10b).
Yes! The Lord has adorned us with the garments of His Glory and Salvation, clothed us in the righteous nature of His Only Begotten Son. Therefore, we rejoice and glory in this great truth that God “delights in each one of us and rejoices over us” (Isaiah 62: 4-5).
In the Gospel reading we heard Jesus of Nazareth inviting us to
“Come”! Not to a doctrine, or ministry do we come first. But we come in trust to a personal Saviour (Matthew 11: 28).
All who are wearied with the turbulence of inward struggle and the drudgery of self are invited to “come and rest” by living Him: Yoked to Jesus Christ, we rest by trusting faith and obedience to Him.
And He invites us to learn Him. Jesus Christ is both Teacher and Lesson. His gentleness of heart fits Him to teach us, to be the illustrator of His own teaching, and to work in us His great salvation (Matthew 11: 29-30).
Rose and Olivia, you will soon be Consecrated and Ordained Bishops in the Church of God. Your calling is to help the people committed to your charge to celebrate together the presence of the Lord. Helping them to become a people of praise; a thankful people; a people trusting in the Lord; delighting in His Law and Salvation; and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Always going into God before you and they go out into the world. Loving them continually into becoming who they are in Jesus Christ: dearly loved and redeemed sons and daughters of God, fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s likeness.
Please Rose and Olivia help everyone to see that the Lord is tireless in inviting them to “come to Him”.
May we all ask for grace daily to be coming to Jesus Christ, and constantly inviting others to come, with us to Him and find rest.
Secondly, this seamless “trinity” of Joyful Celebration is the healing and life-giving mission of Religious Communities and our focus today is on St Hild, Abbess of Whitby, who lived from 614-680 AD.
St Hild was an outstanding figure in the early English Church. She was a bringer of light. She and her monastic female and male companions contributed directly and indirectly to the conversion of England. St Bede’s account of Whitby Monastery under her, reveals Hild as the first great English female saint.
Through Hild’s faith and Rule of Life in teaching and example, Whitby monastery became a centre for the conversion of the laity – bringing salvation to many living at a distance – such as the Monastery’s famous son, Caedmon, a servant labourer on the monastic estate. Hild’s prophetic foresight recognised the potential of Caedmon’s poetic and musical gifts, gifts she fostered when she called him to join her monastery.
She taught Caedmon Holy Scripture inspiring him to compose the first Christian poem in vernacular as well as turning sacred scripture into song. Thus the earliest vernacular expressions of Christian devotion came out of Whitby.
According to St Bede, Whitby Monastery during the lifetime of Hild was “the pre-eminent centre of learning in Anglo-Saxon England and made a unique contribution to the Church at a time when its fortunes were at their nadir, particularly as the priests and bishops it trained were in desperately short supply”.
St Hild was illumined not only by the outer brilliance of learning but by the inner light of divine wisdom. She saw Whitby not as a community of men and women withdrawn from the world, but as a place where men were to be trained to go out as clergy to serve, and call others to faith and ministry. And female members as evangelists, pastors and teachers.
It is indeed right that this Feast Day of St Hild is a day of Joyful Celebration.
Rose and Olivia - as Bishops in the Church of God - may the Lord help you, like Hild, to study the Scriptures, bringing the Lord’s salvation to many living at a distance.
Draw on the Lord’s wisdom and insight to foster and encourage the flourishing of God’s gifts in others. Especially those, like Caedmon, who have the gift of commending the Gospel in today’s vernacular of Kent and in today’s vernacular of Reading.
Thirdly, this seamless “trinity” of Joyful Celebration will reach its crescendo when two wonderful female priests, Rose and Olivia, are consecrated, set apart, by the Holy Spirit, to be Bishops in the Church of God.
Simple shepherds were the archetypal pastors – after the example of the Good Shepherd. The Kingdom of God does not consist in the eloquence of language but in constancy of faith. And salvation was first preached to the world not by orators but by shepherds, fishermen and a converted Pharisee – Saul of Tarsus.
May the shepherds, the fishermen, St Paul and St Hild inspire you in God’s calling to you as new Bishops in His Church. He is calling you “my delight” – He “desires” you and He is sending you, as apostles, with authority to proclaim His message, to heal the sick and cast out demons (Mark 3: 13 – 15).
In our Gospel reading we also heard Jesus of Nazareth telling us that God hides the truths of revelation from the so-called “wise and prudent”. They cannot see, because they trust their own dim light, and they will not accept the light of God.
Rose and Olivia, you will continue receiving and seeing sacred truths of revelation as you become simple and trusting like infants, for to such as these the Lord opens up the treasures of wisdom and insight. Please Lord, let Rose, let Olivia, let me, be one among them.
As new Bishops in the Church of God, be challenged constantly by what we heard the Apostle Paul say to his Philippian friends (Philippians 3: 7 – 14).
According to the letter of the Law, Saul of Tarsus was a diamond of the first order. Now, after grace had opened his eyes, he despises what he once thought precious. He now “hopes to take hold of that for which Christ once took hold of him” (Philippians 3: 12b).
He is pressing forward to something higher and better (verses 13 – 15). Rose and Olivia, always press onward to a much higher form of sainthood.
The “Eagle’s motto is, “Higher! Higher! Higher!” May this be your motto too: I beseech you, seek continually to rise.
And please remember this: Righteousness and Holiness, far from being earned, are pure Gift which the Holy Spirit gives to all who are in JESUS CHRIST. And who trust Him implicitly like infants.
Believe that the Holy Spirit can make you a joyful friend of Jesus Christ. And therefore a joyful friend to all His brothers and sisters and to everyone in His world He came to save. Living in His peace, power and fruitfulness.
Be missionary Bishops who delight in God – and who are exposed daily to the vision of heaven and the tragedies of humankind. And loitering with intent at the intersection where the love of God in Jesus Christ and human need meet. When heaven touches earth, God-incidents happen.
Rose and Olivia, your key task is to encourage all the clergy and laity committed to your care to be such missionary members of the Body of Christ, showing people a Jesus who holds in his hands both the glory of heaven and the tragedies of humankind. And if you do this your agendas will be transformed, and your mission will be delight – stemming from the sheer enjoyment of your intimacy with God.
May God the Father enfold you in His Love, by His gracious Spirit, to know all of Jesus Christ, that you can know, and to be as much like Christ as you can be.
What a day of Joyful Celebration. The Lord is Here among us. St Hild and a great cloud of witnesses are surrounding us, cheering us on. And Rose and Olivia are here to be consecrated Bishops in the Church of God. What a Gift!
This indeed is a day of great Joy and Celebration. Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Amen.