Sermon preached by Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu at the installation of Bishop Fred Hiltz as Primate

The following is the text of the sermon preached by Archbishop of York John Sentamu at the installation of Bishop Fred Hiltz as Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada at St. Matthew’s Church in Winnipeg on June 26, 2007.

The Most Rev. Dr. John Sentamu
Archbishop of York

May I speak in the Name of the Son, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father. Amen

When your outgoing Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, invited me, a year ago, to speak at the installation of you new Primate, I chose the readings set for the Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch for my sermon — readings which have been read. It was on 17 October 1962 that I first received a letter from a Canadian pen-pal. Great memories! So I thought, why not choose readings set for 17 October. So here we are!

First of all, as one of those who was installed as Primate of England only 18 months ago, please allow me to share with you what the service of inauguration of my ministry in York did to me. I realised, there and then, that the whole Church was affirming who and what I was. God is glad and rejoices in the fact that he created you as you are, and has and is redeeming you, from glory to glory to become Christ-like. So be yourself.

Why do I say this? Because a few days before I was installed, a dear friend of mine sent me a card whose title was “The Qualifications of an Archbishop.” He also wrote to say that he was praying that I will be given such qualities for I needed them all. And they are:
The wisdom of an owl
The strength of an ox
The tenacity of a bulldog
The daring of a lion
The industry of a beaver
The gentleness of a sheep
The versatility of a chameleon
The vision of an eagle
The hide of a rhinoceros (although, as a lawyer, think that this is a quality characteristic of lawyers — thick-skinned, short-sighted and ready to charge!)
The endurance of a camel
The bounce of a kangaroo
The loyalty of a martyr
The faithfulness of a prophet
The tenderness of a shepherd
The devotion of a mother

And it ended by saying “And even then you wouldn’t please everybody.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, be yourself.

Secondly, you are being installed, set apart, for mission impossible — the commission by Jesus Christ to go out and make all the non-belongers in Canada, God’s friends and invited guests. God is calling you, as archbishop in his church, to loiter with intent at the crossroads where human need and divine love meet. Walking the way of Christ.
You are one of the sent-out-ones, with the love of God and his invitation for all to come and be his guests. And as bishop your ministry is akin to a bartender. Yes — a bartender at the Holy Ghost party.

As a sent-out-one, you are a pioneer who must go and do what has never been done before. Attempting the impossible because the hand of the God of the impossible is on you. Reach out to people who are desperately searching for identity, meaning and belonging.

I think I can safely say that in the past eighteen months the Lord has allowed me to become the 18th camel. The 18th what? Shouldn’t I leave elephants and camels to the outgoing Primate?

You know the story of a father who had three sons and 17 camels. In his will he left a half f his 17 camels to his elder son. One-third to his second son; and one-ninth to his youngest son. The father died and the children attempted to divide the camels according to their father’s will. They had great difficulty in dividing 17 camels into one-half, a third and one-ninth. So they went to consult a wise old man. He said, very simple. I will lend you my camel — it will be the 18th and you can each get what your father wanted you to have. Bingo! A half of 18 is 9; a third of 18 is 6; and a ninth of 18 is 2 — making a total of 17.

The wise old man then took away his camel. Be that 18th camel that removes all shackles and nurtures growth. And never believing that the General Synod has the power of a lawn mower and the breaks of a Juggernaut. The remarkable things about the 18th camel is that it’s volunteered and responds willingly. To be a servant in the Church of God, you too are volunteered. The call is addressed to those people who are not expecting to be invited — and not those who have become their own good cause! The Church of Jesus Christ is a community where earning your place in not on offer — buying your way in isn’t an option.

In all my ministry I have been volunteered and invariably been dragged along screaming. From chaplaincies, incumbencies, General Synod endless committees, Bishop for Stepney, Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, Damilola Taylor Murder Review, Bishop for the Diocese of Birmingham and Archbishop of York. Others have volunteered me.

As Bishop Frank Weston, of Zanzibar said in 1923:
“You have your Holy Communion, you have your altars… now go out into the highways and byways and look for Jesus in the ragged and the naked, the oppressed and the sweated, and in those who have lost hope and those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus in them; and when you find him, gird yourselves with his towel of fellowship and wash his feet in the person of his brothers and sisters.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, you will maintain your passion for God, his Church and his world by being yourself. By becoming the 18th camel.

Thirdly, you will keep your passion for God, his church and his world by hearing again and again God’s gracious and powerful invitation to friendship and vocation freely offered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

The calling again of the apostle Peter, after his threefold denial assures us that nothing can shut God up when he decides to call. He calls again and again. The Resurrection is God issuing his invitation with clarity and graciousness.

You will remember that on Betrayal Thursday night, Peter denied Jesus three times by a charcoal fire. And it’s by a charcoal fire, “just as the day was breaking, and after breakfast”, that the Lord helps Peter to get over his hang-over of denial by asking him, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” “Feed my sheep; tend my lambs; feed my sheep.” The lambs and the sheep I love. Lead them out to find pasture and open them to the world. Bring them back again to the warmth and safety of the Body of Christ — free from wolves and all that would hurt them. Be a good shepherd.

Peter is transformed to serve by the risen Jesus because he trust Peter on the field of his defeat. The charcoal fire where Peter was warming himself was a place of denial. The charcoal fire by the lakeside, where the lord and breakfast are present, was a place of transformation and commissioning for service. The Lord longs to transform our failures into bridges to others.

The most precious thing I have experienced about Jesus of Nazareth Is the way in which he trusts me on the field of my defeat. Just as he dealt with Peter — restored him and commissioned him again, he longs to transform us, in the same way, into friends and channels of his grace to his wounded and hurting world.

We are all included in spite of our past failures. Our faith in the risen Christ may be very weak. And we may be tempted to go back to our old way of life and occupation — like Peter who said, after the risen Lord had shown himself alive, “‘Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, I am going fishing’. They said to him. ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got i to the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (John 21:2-3)

What really matters is that Jesus Christ believes in us and looks at each one of us as potential saints. Let us all hear God’s call afresh. “Love me”, he says. “Feed my sheep! Tend my lambs! Feed my sheep!”

He is calling us to minister to him, meet his needs in the world and to worship him.

Your Grace, Archbishop Fred, be yourself. Become the 18th camel. Hear God’s call to friendship and vocation. Come and be transfigured to serve.

Finally, dearly beloved Archbishop Fred Hiltz, you will keep alive your passion for God, his Church and his world if, like the Apostle Paul, you continue to have Christ at the Centre of everything.

The Apostle Peter always had JESUS CHRIST AT THE CENTRE OF HIS LIVING. “For me to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21)

He always had JESUS CHRIST AT THE CENTRE OF HIS THINKING.“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)

He always had JESUS CHRIST AT THE CENTRE OF HIS PLANNING. His aiming, his motivation. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

I beg of you to look at your past achievements and failures with the eyes of an accountant. And so whatever you have lost or gained, let Christ be your prize. Let Christ always be your balance sheet.

I beg of you to look at the present with the eyes of a sportsperson. Train for Christ. Throw yourself into the race for Christ. Aim for Christ. Let your faith be ready for adventure — ready to go into the unknown and forsaking the right to ask where you are going. May our Lord give you a reckless willingness to adventure. A venturesome faith — like that of Abraham.

I beg of you to look to the future wit the eyes of a foreigner whose true home is in God.

Your true dwelling is where peace is flowering because love and justice have pervaded the whole environment: Heaven itself — which isn’t a home for retired Christians but for active citizens.

And so as a citizen of heaven and an ambassador for Christ, always share and give the treasures of heaven to the people you meet. Holding forever before you the glories of heaven and the tragedies of the world.

Like the Apostle Paul, know Christ, the power of Christ’s resurrection, and share in Christ’s sufferings by becoming like him in his death.”

The Apostle Paul is referring to three things in verse 10 of Philippians 3: the potential of Christ’s life now, the principle of Christ’s life now, and the power of Christ’s life now.
What happened when they crucified Jesus? He died. Yes, but what happened when they crucified Jesus? He died. Yes, but what happened whey they crucified Jesus? He died. Yes but what happened when they crucified Jesus? They nailed him to the cross. He hanged there. He conversed with one thief; prayed for his persecutors and took care of his mother and the beloved disciple. In the end he breathed his last and said, “Father, it is finished.” What was finished? Doing God’s work for salvation. What happened when they crucified Jesus? God worked! The veil of the temple was rent in two, the rocks split, the graves opened and the dead arose.

This is precisely what Bishop John Jewell wanted his hearers to enter into when he preached his sermon on Holy Communion in Salisbury Cathedral in 1570 . He said, “What we celebrate and perceive in Holy Communion is the effects of the cross.” That is: God’s working in a radically new way in signs and wonders.

That’s what the Apostle Paul say, “I want now.” I want the principle of Christ’s life now; I want his resurrection life now; I want his potential suffering now; I want his power now. I long to see God at work now in my earthly life like he did when they crucified Jesus. God, do in my life now what you did whey they crucified Jesus. Finish your work of saving me now as you did when you made your enemies your friends!!

And this verse is like a jam sandwich. “Knowing Christ and the sharing of his sufferings” the two pieces of bread. And the jam in the middle, “the power of his resurrection.” You need to bite right through and not just scoop out the jam in the middle.

I believe in healing, but sharing in the sufferings of Christ is a privilege that has been granted to us as followers of the crucified-God. As Ignatius of Antioch said in 107 A.D., “I am God’s wheat — ground fine by the lion’s teeth to be made purest bread for Christ. He who died for us is all I seek; he who rose for us is my whole desire. Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart.”

And a the Prophet Micah reminded us, what God expects from his people is not an abundance of sacrifices (thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers oil), but justice, love, kindness, which are to characterize the lives of the true covenant community (Micah 6:6-8).

Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells a story of when he was a Religious Knowledge teacher in a primary school in Soweto. A boy there gave an interesting answer during an exam to the question: “When Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist, what did John say to him?” The boy answered, “Now that you know you are the Son of God, start behaving like one.”

Archbishop Frederick James Hiltz, your Grace, now that you know that you are a Child of God and that 18th camel, start behaving like one.

St. Ignatius revealed in his letters his passionate commitment to Christ, and longed, “to imitate the passion of my God.” May he pray for you.

He also, in the face of persecution, appealed to his fellow Christians to maintain unity with their bishop at all costs. May you all maintain unity with our Primate.

Please will you all stand.
Will you please say to the person on your left and your right, “Now that you know you are a Child of God and that 18th camel, start behaving like one.”

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! May the Lord bless us all.

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