SERMON PREACHED AT THE CONSECRATION
THE VENERABLE DAVID RICHARDS
SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF ALBANY
THURSDAY, JULY 19th, 1951
CATHEDRAL OF ALL SAINTS
ALBANY, NEW YORK
The Right Reverend Charles F. Boynton, D. D.
And also we humbly entreat thee, O Lord, the everlasting Shepherd, not to leave thy flock untended, but by thy blessed Apostles to keep it in thy continual protection; that it may be governed by those same rulers, whom in thy stead, thou hast given for thy work, as shepherds of thy People.
Thus runs the ancient Proper Preface assigned for Eucharists celebrated on any feast of an Apostle. Here one prays, at the very heart of The Divine Liturgy itself, that the instrument of Salvation--the Church--may be kept in continual protection by the blessed Apostles, who were chosen and sent in the place of the Risen and Ascended Lord to be the shepherds of God's people.
Now what the Church prays for is always most important. Certainly the continual protection of the Church is a most important thing. And those into whose hands such protection is committed must be most important people.
And yet, how much do we know about the Apostles? Very little; very little indeed. In the first three Gospels we do not hear a great deal; we are told that Jesus called four of them--Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, while they were fishing. Another, Matthew, [1/2] we learn he called while he was sitting at the receipt of custom. We learn further that Jesus took Peter, James and John with him on two occasions--when he raised Jairus's daughter and when he was transfigured. We hear of various occasions when Peter took the lead in asking Him questions; and we also hear that Jesus chose twelve men in all, that is seven more besides the four already mentioned, to be His special disciples. These were Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, another James, another Simon called Zelotes, a Judas otherwise called Thaddaeus, and Judas Iscariot. So much for the first three Gospels.
In the fourth Gospel we learn a little more, but even so, precious little. In this Gospel, we have certain of them speaking--namely Philip, Andrew and Judas who was not Iscariot; and we hear a good deal about Thomas. We know from all four Gospels that Judas Iscariot was the betrayer. And, believe it or not; that is all we learn. In all four Gospels 10 of them make some appearance or other; but of two we learn absolutely nothing other than that their names were Simon Zelotes and James the son of Alphaeus.
In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, besides having the names of all twelve rehearsed again for us, we hear of the bad end of Judas Iscariot, and how he [2/3] was replaced by Matthias. We learn the name of another close disciple--one worthy of being called an Apostle, for he, like the others, had been constantly with Jesus from the time of his baptism by John in Jordan until the ascension; namely Joseph called Barsabas, whose surname was Justus, but he was not one of the original twelve, and we hear no more of him. Later on we are told that James, the brother of John, was beheaded by Herod. Philip, whom we hear about, was not one of the twelve, but one of the seven deacons along with Stephen. And that is all; absolutely all.
Why do we know so little about those blessed Apostles to whom the Lord, the everlasting Shepherd, committed the continual protection of his Church, that it might be governed by those same rulers whom in His stead he had given for his work as shepherds of his people. It is fair to say right away, I am sure, that there were other books, other than the Gospels and the Book of the Acts, which undoubtedly contained more material about the later lives and doings of the Apostles; but unfortunately they have been long since lost. We don't even have the originals of the writings of two authors of the Post-Apostolic Age, Papias and Hegesippus, who we know did write down recollections of the early days of the Church, and from whom we learn a little more about Matthew and John and Mark, and [3/4] of the death of James the brother of the Lord. For what we learn from these writers, we learn through Eusebius--and he quotes only what he thought were their most interesting statements, omitting all which seemed to him so familiar as not to be worth quoting.
Another reason, I am sure, is the fact that the Apostles were not chosen by Jesus because they were particularly clever or particularly learned men. From some of the questions Peter and others asked, as recorded in the Gospels, we are justified in feeling that the Apostles were decidedly not clever; rather the reverse. Also we are told in the Acts that the Jewish authorities found, and were surprised to find, that the Apostles were ignorant and illiterate men. And we remember Jesus' own cry to God on one occasion--"I thank thee Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
Besides their names, besides a few things some of them said and did as recorded in the Gospels and the Acts, only Tradition remains to complete our knowledge of those great and holy men to whom the Lord committed so terribly much. Peter went to Rome and was martyred in the persecution under Nero. John went to Asia Minor to Ephesus. James was beheaded at a very early date. [4/5] The tradition is persistent that Thomas went to India. Legend says that Andrew went to Greece, Bartholomew went to Persia, Matthew went to Ethiopia etc. All of them except John, it is said, suffered martyrdom by one means or another.
And that is all we know. Or is it? No, we have not yet mentioned the most important thing we know about the Apostles; the only thing that really matters and that made them infinitely worthy of our Lord's utter confidence and caused Him to commit to them the continual protection of His Church and that it be governed by them, whom in his stead, he gave for his work as shepherds of his people. The greatest thing about the Apostles is that although they have ever been largely unsung and unknown, the people whom they met and lived with "took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus," and because of this, more and more people received the word gladly, and were baptized, and continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers.
DAVID, you are about to be consecrated a Bishop in the Church of God and thus made a direct descendent of the Apostles to whom the continual protection and the government of the Church has been committed by Christ [5/6] Himself. Others, far more able than I, have already shared with you much advice both concerning the nature of the office of a Bishop--how it is of the "esse" of the Church, and concerning the work of a Bishop as well. You will learn more both of the nature and the ministry of the office of a Bishop as we proceed with this solemn service--how it will be your duty to instruct the people committed to your charge from the Holy Scriptures which contain all Doctrines required as necessary for salvation; how you are to withstand and convince the gainsayers; to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word; how you are to conduct your personal life so that in all things you will be an example of good works unto others; how you are to exercise diligently such discipline as by the authority of God's Word, and by the order of this Church, is committed to you; and how you are to be faithful in ordaining, sending, or laying hands on others.
You can learn even more by reading and meditating on the admonitions of St. Paul to his beloved fellow Apostles Timothy and Titus; especially the counsel "let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
 If perchance, like Timothy, you should receive a gift given you by prophecy with the laying on of hands, and neglect it not, it may be that you shall so preach the Word, be so instant in season and out of season, so reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine, that you will be known and remembered by many as one of the great preachers of all time, as a profound and astute theologian., as an organizer and administrator without equal. But if such prove not to be the case, do not be concerned or discouraged; and above all do not feel that thereby you have not been faithful to your Apostleship. Always keep in remembrance those Holy Apostles of old, about whom we know so very little, yet to whom the Lord committed the continual protection and the government of his Church and appointed to be as shepherds of his people. And God grant that as of them, so it may be said and known of you that the people whom throughout your Episcopate you will have met and lived with took knowledge of you that you had been with Jesus. To the extent that this will be true, to that extent, through you, will more and more people receive the Word gladly, and be baptized, and continue steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers.