Sermon Preached at St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem September 12, 2021 Proper 19, Year B The Reverend Canon Donald D. Binder, PhD This morning I would like to take a point of personal privilege to reflect with you for a few moments on the commemoration of a tragic event that was not only significant for my family and nation, but indeed for the entire world. I am speaking, of course, about the cataclysmic events of September 11th, 2001, which took place exactly twenty years ago yesterday. My family and I had just moved to Northern Virginia, a mere 25 kilometers southwest [...]
I write this message from the Holy City of Jerusalem to wish you a peaceful Advent, as we journey together towards the Incarnation in a stable in Bethlehem.
The story of the good Samaritan is one that is a guide to Christians across the globe as to how we can be neighbours for those who need us, whoever she or he may be; and it is, I believe, relevant all the more so in our approach to how we as individuals and communities welcome and care for refugees. It is with this in mind that I write, aware of the extraordinary work that ordinary men and women in our Diocese are doing in caring for refugees from Syria and Iraq. The refugee crisis is serious – very serious – and demands that we respond with compassion and care to people who have faced untold horrors, and who have had to leave their martyrs behind.
On Sunday (Feast of St. Francis of Assisi) at St. George’s Cathedral, there was a service of thanksgiving for the ministry of the parishes and institutions of the Diocese, and for the harvest. The altar was laden with fruit and vegetables showing God’s bounty. The Archbishop preached on having a ‘grateful heart’ even in the midst of great difficulty (his sermon is set out below). The Dean welcomed all to the Cathedral, noting many had travelled from far away to be in Jerusalem. After the service, all retired to the Guest House for Harvest Lunch which had been kindly prepared by the Reverend Deacon Honey Becker and her staff.
It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of the Most Rev. Samir Hanna Kafity, the retired twelfth bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem and president bishop and primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and bishop-in-residence at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Poway, who died on the afternoon of August 21 at home after a stroke.
Thanksgiving is arriving this year differently from previous years. These last few months have been an unhappy period in the region. The military conflict in our area resulted in hundreds of innocent men, women, and children losing their lives, and many thousands of others seriously injured. Once again there has been enormous pain and suffering in a part of the world whose holy sages have shown man for millennia what is required of him – to love mercy, to do justly, and to walk humbly before God.
We are joined this morning by distinguished religious leaders and theologians of The International Commission of Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, who have met this week here in Jerusalem to discuss the dignity of the human person, as created in the image and likeness of God.
The title of my sermon this morning is “The Dignity of Human Beings.” What we are witnessing in our region today is something scarcely to be believed, the brutal killing of innocent people in different parts of the Middle East, whether in Iraq or Gaza, Syria or elsewhere. In Syria and Iraq, ancient Christian communities, churches and clerics have all come under fire and persecution by radical Muslim groups and, unfortunately, by insurgents who slaughter human beings indiscriminately: be they Christian or non-Christian.
The tragic events of recent weeks, brought about by the escalating violence, leave us shocked and dismayed. The loss of innocent lives, young people and children among them, move us to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.
I bring you greetings from the Holy Land and the Diocese of Jerusalem. I would like also to extend greetings and peace to you from Bishop Suheil Dawani and the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem. I would like to express our deep and profound thanks and gratitude for your kind invitation to be part of this Conference and to share with you the word of God and the life of the Christian community, the Living Stones of the Holy Land, or as some of us would call it, the Land of the Holy One.
I simply do not know what it is like in the diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East in this regard, but in both my previous diocese and now in my new diocese the question of red or white as the liturgical colour for Confirmation was a point of careful scrutiny and consideration.
Most Bishops, Priests, and Pastors I know are glad to have a guest preacher on Trinity Sunday. It's good we say for the people to hear someone else’s perspective and reflections on this great mystery at the heart of the faith we share.
Our Lord Jesus Christ says: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."
From Bethany above the city of Jerusalem, Jesus looked out upon a scene which even today is one of the most interesting in the world. From the highest point on the Mount of Olives, Jesus could see the city walls extending much farther to north and south than we see today. He could see the temple with its white marble and limestone walls shining the sun. He could see the tower of the Roman fortress just to the north of the temple and all the soldiers on guard. Palaces and public buildings could be seen clearly. He could also see the roofs of the simple houses of the people of Jerusalem.
I am very happy to welcome you all to this cathedral this morning. My hope is that you will find St George's to be your cathedral home while you are here in the Holy City. We have the great joy of welcoming thousands of pilgrims every year from all over the world to this cathedral which we see as the mother church for all Anglicans. You are most welcome and I pray that your pilgrimage strengthens and renews your faith in our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am indebted this morning to Herbert O’Driscoll, a priest of the Church of Canada, who provides us a valuable perspective on this morning’s Gospel. The backbone of what I share with you this morning is from his wise and discerning heart.
The Spirit of God has led Jesus into the wilderness for a forty-day sojourn of soul-searching. Certainly the number forty and the location of Jesus’ temptations are not lost on us. Moses and the Israelites spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, and they too were tempted. When the words “forty” and “wilderness” are around the Bible, you can count on something important going on.
On my day of installation as the fourteenth Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem four years ago, I announced the establishment of a new department for Peace and Reconciliation in the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. This emerged from a conviction that we must be ministers for peace and reconciliation in this world.
Christians all share the Good News of a great joy which is for all the people of the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. At Christmas we are no longer Lutheran or Anglican, Orthodox Christian or Latin Catholic. We are the Body of Christ.