I confess, I'm a bit irritated that he didn't ask me along. End the Embargo!!
The Episcopal Church in the United States shares a deep bond with La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba. This goes back to 1871, when Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple of the Diocese of Minnesota in the United States stopped in Havana en route to Haiti. When he returned home Bishop Whipple persuaded the Episcopal Church to send its first clergy and missionaries to Cuba. This began a relationship that led to the founding of the missionary Diocese of Cuba as part of the U.S. Church. The close friendship of our two Churches has continued for 135 years. My Church is deeply committed to accompanying the Church of Cuba in our common witness to Jesus.
During my visit here I have been moved greatly by the faithfulness and vibrancy of your Church. Also, I have been saddened to see the suffering caused by the policies of my country's government. The Episcopal Church in the United States strongly opposes the Blockade against Cuba. In the four decades of its existence, the Blockade has done little except exacerbate the suffering of the Cuban people. Reconciliation must begin, and people of faith must lead the way.
In that spirit, I find myself affected and challenged by this morning's Gospel account of the Transfiguration of Christ. Jesus leads Peter, James, and John to a high mountain to pray. For a moment the disciples see a vision of Christ's divinity. They are able to see Jesus as he truly is: the Incarnate Word of the Living God. Then, the voice of God pierces through the heavens - "This is my Son, the Beloved." This echoes words spoken at Jesus' baptism. (Mark 9:7) At the moment of the Transfiguration, just as in the moment of Jesus' baptism, those present encounter God's sheer delight, God's pleasure, God's joy.
The story of the Transfiguration points back to the story of Jesus' baptism because it is in baptism that Jesus - like each of us - most intimately encounters God's outpouring of unbounded love. Baptism marked for Jesus, as it does for us, the beginning of active participation in God's work in the world. But Baptism is not about taking up of an agenda. Rather, baptism is about giving up our own agendas and giving of ourselves so that God's plans may be worked in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. "My food is to do the will of the One who sent me, and to complete his work," Jesus declares at the outset of his public ministry. (John 4:34) For us too, then, by virtue of our Baptism and God's love
poured out upon us, we are called to engage God's work in our world. This is made clear by Jesus on the mountain of the Transfiguration. The disciples who witness God's declaration of love were not allowed by Jesus to linger in their awe or contemplation. Instead, he brings them back down from the mountain, back to the work of the baptized in the world.
And what is that work of the baptized? What is the mission of the Church?
The catechism of the American Prayer Book says: "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." (BCP, p. 855).
Or, as St. Paul says, the mission of the Church is to proclaim - in both word and deed - that "in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, and has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation." Because of our baptism we, like Jesus, are proclaimed beloved by God and called to be fellow workers in God's project of reconciliation.