Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Baccalaureate: Episcopal High School

The new priest was in the habit of attending daily mass with his rector. Normally one or the other would give the faithful eight a brief reflection on the lessons appointed for the day.

On this particular morning, 7:30 a.m. to be exact, the rector had invited a friend, professor and priest to give a brief homily.

The professor was 10 minutes into the homily on his second point of five delineating the nature of the Godhead when the priest sitting next to the rector first heard the voice of God.

It was deep and mumbling…what was it saying? Where was the voice coming from? He looked out into the cavernous church and over the top of the eight faithful listeners…what was that noise? It suddenly dawned on him it was snoring. Someone was snoring. And, as the professor rounded point three the snoring got louder. But where was it coming from? None of the attendees were asleep. Bored, yes. Asleep, no.

Then he realized the snoring was coming from the sound system.

He slowly turned to his right where his rector was sitting, sound asleep, snoring into his lapel mic.

Somewhere between points three and four the snoring turned into snorting…and now the rector was leaning on him with his head nodding back and forth.

The priest tried to wake him up. He called his name. He tapped his shoulder. Nothing would wake the man.

Finally, well into point four and bravely and loudly competing with the snoring/snorting, the eight faithful giggling, our hero decides to give the priest the strongest, right, jab to the gut he can.

He takes a deep breath. Hauls back and hits him square in the rib cage.

At which upon such a spiritual awakening the rector stands up in the middle of point five and says loudly:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth…(The Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson’s story)

After four years of Episcopal Chapel services, you have arrived. We are here in your last chapel service before you become alums of Episcopal High School. And, I assure you I do not have a five point sermon.

At the inaugural session of the Continental Congress – with the weight of war and the hope of freedom on their minds, on Wednesday, September 7, 1774, Mr. Duché an Episcopal Clergyman was invited to read prayers to the Congress. As it happened the 35th psalm was appointed for Episcopalians as a part of Morning Prayer. So Mr. Duché began, “Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.” (American Gospel, Jon Meacham, p.65)

June 28, 1836, it was an Episcopal service that accompanied James Madison, our 4th president and founding father, to his grave. (p.230) And, it was Episcopal prayers that accompanied the mourners in their grief.

It was an Episcopal Service of Morning Prayer with hymns that inaugurated the Atlantic Charter between Churchill and Roosevelt on the deck of the HMS Prince Charles on the eve of World War II. (p.160)

April 13, 1943, the Episcopal Presiding Bishop Henry St. George Tucker joined the president and five thousand people to dedicate the Jefferson Memorial with an Episcopal Prayer thanking God for raising leaders up among us. (p.248)

March 4, 1944, it was an Episcopal prayer that was read for our enemies at Roosevelt’s service commemorating his first inauguration in the midst of a nation at war. (p.167)

On August 20, 1965, Jonathan M. Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian, gave his life after following the call of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma, Alabama. It was there that Daniels lived with an African American family, and helped integrate the local Episcopal church. He found his strength in the vision of God preached in the Episcopal Church and through our prayers.

Three years later in the heart of the Country, Washington D.C., and in the heart of the Jonathan Daniels’ Episcopal Church, the National Cathedral, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. climbed the thirteen steps into the pulpit during an Episcopal service and said, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.” (p203)

On January 14, 2009, then president elect, Barack Obama attended an Episcopal prayer service at St. Johns Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, prior to being sworn in as our 44th president of the United States.

From this nation’s very inception, our leaders have from time to time called upon the wisdom found within our Episcopal heritage of prayers and scripture.

In times of great discernment…In times of celebration…In times of peace…In times of justice…In times of war…and, in times of civil struggle…our leaders, those whose names we know and those whose names we do not know have called upon the strength of daily prayers found in our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

Through regular chapel, and Episcopal Prayer, we have hoped to provide you, the graduating class of 2009, with a solid foundation of wisdom, a solid foundation of prayer, a solid foundation upon which you may build a good and virtuous citizenship.

While we have hoped that those of you who are Episcopalians will have found strength and familiarity upon which to continue to build your religious life, we have also hoped that those of you without a church home will have found here your spiritual home. Perhaps you will have found here a place upon which to grow a healthy relationship with God. And we have hoped that those of you of every other denomination, creed, or faith background will have found a faithful and partnering denomination in the Episcopal Church, and a sure and certain knowledge of our friendship with all believers.

We have given this Episcopal heritage to you in order that together we might improve the lives of our neighbors.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The real field of rivalry among and between the creeds comes in the rivalry of the endeavor to see which can render best service to mankind.”

Our goals have been through the Academic Pillar, The Art Pillar, the Athletic Pillar and most of all the Religion Pillar that you a diverse student body will reach independently your maximum potential here and in the years to come.

We have given to you the foundations upon which to become honest, moral, and upright members of our society.

That we may outdo one another in kindness and in compassion to our fellow human beings.

Our work has been to provide for you an Episcopal Foundation of Faith.

A foundation that can be drawn upon at times of discernment and when you are unsure of a course of action.

A foundation that can be drawn upon for your celebratory events as in marriages and baptisms, many of which will be done here in this very chapel.

A foundation that you can draw upon when you are in trouble, fearful, or in pain.

A foundation upon which you may find resources for the daily living of life.

A foundation upon which you may with others reshape and make the world a better place tomorrow than it is today.

Each one of you will be a leader, in your home and within your family, you will be leaders in academia, sports, and in the arts, you will be leaders in the marketplace and within our governments.

There will come a time for each one of you when every word will matter, every prayer spoken or silently prayed will count, every thought a necessary component of what comes next, every action an opportunity for change. Into these moments let the wisdom of our worship and prayer and scripture be present for you, uphold you, and sustain you.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I never told my religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert nor wish to change another’s creed. I have ever judged the religion of others by their lives. For it is in our lives and not from our words, that our religion must be read.” (p. 34)

May each of you take these next steps into your lives knowing you are well prepared by your faculty, well rounded by each of the pillars, and well grounded in a faith tradition that our country depends upon.

Take these steps into tomorrow, and so act in each of them that the world is changed and made a place where liberty and religion prosper, a place where freedom and goodness and faith are intertwined, a place were hope reigns.

Act so others may see in you what we have seen in you – a great and noble future. Act so that others may see in you the best parts of our faith imparted and the blessings of your formation lived out.

This is how people will know your true religion, your true faith. This is how they will know you are graduates of Episcopal High School.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball