Below is my sermon from Spy Wednesday (Wednesday in Holy Week), preached at my sponsoring parish, The Church of the Redeemer. The lessons can be found here. The recording can be listed to below. For this sermon, unlike most of the sermons I’ve preached lately, I went back to my practice of no manuscript and no notes. As always, comments and feedback welcome.
Madame President, I rise in opposition to this resolution.
While the effort to conform our lections to that of the wider Christian community is a noble one, this process presents a problem to the wider continuity of our Holy Week liturgies. First these lessons shift our traditional Anglican understanding of Holy Week, as some of the other communities using the RCL understand this important week differently than we do. Secondly changing the lessons creates inconsistencies in the liturgies themselves. By shifting the lessons we loose the continuity of the collect of the day and the readings. It creates liturgies that are disjointed and confusing.
Another issue with these revisions is in regards to the gospel for Maundy Thursday. The RCL lectionary removes the possibility of commemorating the first celebration of the Eucharist and only recognizes the foot washing – a ritual not every Episcopal congregation participates in.
We are looking at altering our most holy and sacred time in the life of the Church. This is not something that should be taken lightly or done solely for the purpose of Unity. If we dare to change these historic recovered liturgies we need to look at the whole of the liturgies not just the lesson.
I hope my fellow members of this house will keep in mind our unique Anglican ethos and identity as we consider a major change in these most solemn and holy occasions of our life together.
Because this was the second reading of a revision to the Book of Common Prayer (changing the lessons listed within the actual liturgies not just in the lectionary pages in the back of the book) it required a vote by orders. As our deputation chair had taken the afternoon off I was serving as the acting chair. While the Rhode Island deputation voted against the resolution, the resolution ultimately passed but by a smaller margin than I had anticipated. In fact, the people who voted against this resolution out numbered those who voted against marriage equality.
Think about that, more people voted against changing the lesson for Holy Week than those who voted against marriage equality – that says something pretty powerful about the state of The Episcopal Church.