Canterbury Downtown

We Are Defiant

Winter/Spring semester 2015

 The new semester is upon us.  Time will move quickly and classroom, work, and social commitments will gather momentum.  But remember that we are a people whose spirits need tending, whose lives are better lived when our souls are nourished.  As members of a community we are also called to care for one another.  This happens best when friendships are engaged in over time, when we show up to one another, and to our place of spiritual community in a committed way.  Even in the face of strange looks and wondering remarks, our time together in worship, prayer and care for one another is worth the courage it takes to stand up tall and defiant.  Below is a sermon delivered by the Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Texas.  May his words encourage you in your defiance, and inspire you to continue your commitment to building community with Canterbury Downtown this spring semester.


Sermon delivered by The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher, Bishop Suffragan of Texas

166th Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas – Opening Eucharist
February 6, 2015
John 18: 33-37

My wife, Susan, and I have two grown sons.
And, in our eyes, our younger son, John, will always be little and sweet.
And when he was a small boy, John was especially sweet.
He was cuddly and quiet and wore these little, teeny, tiny eyeglasses.

However, John did not like to go to the dentist.
And he would pitch a little fit whenever the 6 month check-up came around.

Because of John’s prior behavior at the dentist, Susan wanted me to go with her and John to an appointment, thinking that strength in numbers would do the trick.
So Susan and I entered the waiting room, pulling John along as if we were dragging him to the executioner.
A dental hygienist then called John back in to have his teeth cleaned.
And Susan and I breathed a sigh of relief.

About 15 minutes later, Susan and I see the door swing open and the hygienist says to us:
“The dentist would like to see both of you.”

When we got in, there was our sweet, little John, sitting in the dentist’s chair, pleading with us through those little glasses.
The dentist, however, looked very upset.

The dentist proclaimed to us:
“Your son closes his lips together tightly and he refuses to open his mouth.
I told John to cooperate and to be nice.
And then your son said:
‘Don’t you get smart with me!’”

Of course, I have no idea where he had ever heard that phrase before.
Yet the dentist was not pleased with John’s defiant behavior.

And in our reading from the Gospel of John this evening, Pontius Pilate is not pleased with Jesus’ defiant behavior.
On that Good Friday many years ago, the governor, Pontius Pilate, summons Jesus to his palace.
With Jesus standing right in front of him, Pilate asks:
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
And Jesus defiantly replies:
“My kingdom is not of this world.
If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would fight to prevent my arrest.”

Pontius Pilate is not happy that Jesus would smart off to him.
Yet Jesus replies that, yes, he does have a kingdom.
Therefore, yes, he is a king.

Now, there are some who might think that the kingdom that is not of this world – is heaven.
Yet I do not believe that the Christian message is just an escape plan for us to fly off into the sweet by and by.
No, I believe that the kingdom of Jesus is on earth, as it is in heaven.
The kingdom of Jesus fills both heaven and earth with the glory of his love.

And this world was made by Jesus, yet the world did not know him.
This world was made by Jesus, yet the world did not accept him.
Yet to all of us who believe in him, Jesus gives us power:
Power to stand boldly before Pontius Pilate and to reply defiantly:
Don’t you get smart with me!

Jesus – and his kingdom – is defiant.

Last Sunday, as I do on most Sundays, I drove through East Texas.
Last Sunday morning, I drove from Humble through Dayton and Liberty, then on to Silsbee.
And as I drove down Highway 90, I passed by little church after little church, of all different denominations and varieties.

And I watched people get out of their cars, many with Bibles tucked under their arms.
I watched people open the doors of these tiny churches.
And what I was watching – was a march of the defiant.

For on Super Bowl Sunday, the faithful were standing in front of Pontius Pilate and proclaiming:
Our kingdom is not of this world.

My Facebook newsfeed might look a lot like yours.
And I see lots of articles like this:
“7 reasons why no one goes to church anymore.”
Or “10 steps to prevent church decline.”

Sometimes I scratch my head and think it is a miracle that anyone comes to our churches at all.
Yet I have come to this conclusion:
It is an act of defiance to the powers of this world that we get ourselves out of bed and go to church.

And I gotta tell y’all this:
I don’t go to church – in order to drink sweet tea with y’all and to eat your potluck lunches.
I don’t go to church – so that I can pass the Peace for 10 minutes.
I don’t go to church – to become a nicer person and to sit compliantly in the dentist chair.
I go to church – because I am defiant.
I go to church – because I get so disheartened by the tragic Monday through Saturday world.
I go to church – because I am sick and tired of hate and bigotry and violence.
I go to church to follow a king whose kingdom is not of this world.
I go to church to shout out:
Don’t you get smart with me!

Now, there are some who will say that the Church, especially our beloved Episcopal Church, is dying.
And I will say – that I agree.
We are dying.
Yet the Church lives into its mission the most – when it is dying.

As St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans:
“We are being killed all day long.”

For only a Church that is dying – can really know that our kingdom is not of this world.
Only a Church that is dying – can be resurrected.
Only a Church that is dying, that is wearing a crown of thorns pushed down on its bloody forehead, can truly be defiant.

And we are defiant.
So we will not bend to pressure to make our churches “more relevant” by throwing away ancient creeds and liturgies.
And we defiantly proclaim:
That we worship a God whose kingdom is not of this world.

We are defiant.
So we will utilize our resources and foundations to benefit all of God’s people in our 57 counties.
And we defiantly proclaim:
That poverty and a lack of basic healthcare and education in the richest nation on this earth is simply not acceptable.

We are defiant.
So we will not buy into the notion that the Christian life is about becoming a nice person.
And we defiantly proclaim:
That the Christian life is about the resurrection of Jesus, who defies death and smashes every boundary to love.

We are defiant.
So we gather as a heart-broken family after the tragic deaths of our beloved priest, Israel, and of Dorcus and Jay.
And we defiantly proclaim:
“The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still.”

We are defiant.
Because we have received power,
Power to have the guts to stand in front of Pontius Pilate and to proclaim:
Our kingdom is not of this world.
Our kingdom of love is…


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