He began his sermon by acknowledging the deep loss to the congregation and the diocese of Mark Whitley, who died on September 5. The service will be at 11am Saturday, October 27, at the church with a reception/lunch afterward at First United Methodist Church, 104 S. Miller, Decatur.
Bishop Mayer said, “I know that as we gather this morning we have on our minds and hold in our hearts Mark and Ellen Whitley. Mark and Ellen first contacted Bishop High about the possibility of planting a church in Wise County. And after some dreaming and some discernment with many of you, here we are: the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. And we gather in this sacred space with an Altar, Paschal Candle stand, missal stand, lectern, credence table, and baptismal font, all built by Mark by hand, [we gather] along with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, including Mark. May God comfort Ellen with a sense of God’s goodness, and may Mark rest in peace and rise in glory.”
He reminded them, “At our last Diocesan Convention you became a mission congregation of the diocese, and you became the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. You are to be commended for your faith, perseverance, and witness. Thank you for your leadership – each one of you, along with our friend Rayford High, and for your priest-in-charge, Tony Hiatt.”
His sermon dealt with the passage in Mark known as “Peter’s confession,” in which Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples give various answers, but Peter replies, “You are the Messiah.”
He continues in the sermon to give the context of this moment — Jesus is becoming known, his miracles are big news. And he wonders, “Who do people say that I am?”
“For the question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’, is a deeply personal question. Who do YOU say that I am? The word, ‘you,’ is a key word in this sentence. Having said that, I want to suggest this morning that there is another key word in this sentence; perhaps a more important word. I’m suggesting that the most important word in the sentence – ‘Who do you say that I am?’ – is ‘who.’”
The bishop refers to the contemplative, Thomas Merton, who wrote: “The ‘what’ in Christ is vastly less important than the ‘who.’
“Merton says, ‘… God is neither a ‘what’ or a ‘thing,’ but a pure ‘Who.’ God is a pure Who. Jesus is a Who, not a what. YOU are a ‘who.’ You are more than a ‘what.’ Those being confirmed today are loved by God no matter what they are, or what they become, or what they can do to further the mission of God. You are a ‘who.'”