Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sermon for the Ordination of Danae Ashley to the Priesthood

Thousands of angels rejoicing in holy dances…

What a glorious day for Danae’s ordination!

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent.
Today is the first day of Hanukah.
Today is the feast day of St. Thomas.
Today is the Winter Solstice.

I think if Danae could have selected any day of the year for her ordination
it could not be better than this day.

Now I must warn you,
I also read on the internet this week
that the rapture is beginning today.
Yes! This very day!

But no worries!
That same internet article that says the rapture begins today—
December 21, 2008--
also notes that the rapture will take until 2015 to complete--
so there’s plenty of time for my sermon,
for Danae’s ordination,
for Holy Eucharist
AND for the festive reception afterwards!
So don’t leave—at least not yet!

But truly, and seriously, today is a day
of an amazingly diverse convergence of happenings.
We hear it in the scripture readings.

Isaiah sees God on a high and lofty throne,
There are celestial seraphs—angels—
flying about with fluttering wings
and golden tongs
and burning coals and cries of holy, holy, holy.
Paul writes to the Ephesians
of the grace and gifts that God showers upon God’s people.
Not a stingy drip drip drip of grace
but showers.
God bucketing a rain of gifts upon us.

And the words of John’s gospel
tell us of a shepherd who willingly risks everything
for the sheep he so loves—
and the good news is
the Good Shepherd loves all the sheep.

So we have this convergence:
--the cosmic entry into the mystery of God’s call;
--the absolute assurance that God will grace each one of us
with the gifts we need
to do God’s work in the world ;
--and the determined and passionate inclusiveness
of One who loves all the sheep,
those lost and those found.

Ordination is also a convergence--
a convergence of all that was and all that is and all that will be--
all that breaks our hearts
and all that makes our hearts sing—

All that has happened in Danae’s life,
in the life of this parish,
in the life of our diocese,
and in the life Church—
with a capital C!

What is God doing in making Danae Ashley a priest?

The truth is
only God REALLY knows.
Ordination is a liminal event that will transform everything about Danae.
Only she –and we—will not have the eyes to see it all at one time.
Danae’s priesthood will be revealed to her
and to us
over and through time.

But what we do know is this:

At some point, Danae heard God ask,
Whom shall I send?
and Danae courageously—
and my guess is,
with more joy and enthusiasm
than some of us will ever muster—
Danae sang out, “Here I am! Send me!”

And God did.
And God continues doing.

At some point, others started looking at Danae
and recognizing that HER gifts were gifts leading her on a journey
to Holy Orders.
And God led.
And God continues leading.

Danae listened and followed and the journey
led from the Diocese of Spokane
to the Diocese of Western North Carolina
via Sewanee
here to Denver.
God doesn’t tend to draw a nice straight linear path for any of us.
You better like twists and turns and switch backs and cloverleafs,
If you are going to follow God’s call.

Today hands will be laid upon Danae
and the Holy Spirit will fall upon her and surround us all
and Danae will be made a priest in our Church.
And we will all be witnesses
to the grace and power of God
continuing to work in the world through humanity.
Today is indeed the convergence of some many miraculous events.

Danae and I share a great love for Celtic Christianity.
You can’t spend time in any Celtic country without noticing
that there are a lot of sheep.
More sheep that people in fact. (That is the honest truth!)

Danae, I pray that God will give you strength and courage and endurance
because being a shepherd is hard work.

I also pray that you don’t spend all your time in your office.
Go out and be with people where they are--
in their homes, at Starbucks,
in a karaoke bar,
in a hospital waiting room..
It’s okay to spend time wandering in the wilderness,
Because you never know whom you might bump into there.
(Just ask Moses—or Jesus!)

As a priest you are called to pattern your life after Christ,
to set a wholesome example for your people.
This is truly important and sometimes truly difficult.

However, I want to be clear.
Danae, some of us would have a very hard time
walking a mile in your shoes,
But we love your spirit of joy and delight,
And by no means do we want you to ever
trade your funky shoe wardrobe
for sensible saddle oxfords!

Paul offers excellent advice to the Ephesians when he writes:
Equip the saints for ministry.

Look at all these saints!!
Remember, you do not have to do it all yourself, Danae.
Encourage and support the ministries of all God’s people.
The best work we do is the work we do together.

I also pray that you will designate one person—one brave person—
and give that person permission and your blessing
to always speak the truth to you.
To speak the truth in love.

That means allowing that one person, when necessary,
to walk into your office, close the door,
and say, “Danae, you are acting like a jerk!”
or “What are you thinking?”
or “You are wrong about this.”

If we surround ourselves with too many people who adore us,
who think we are perfect and holy and without fault,
we lose the ability to see our own brokenness,
we forget the necessity
of falling to our own knees on occasion.
And most dangerous of all,
we start to believe that it is all up to us.

It is not up to us.
It is up to God.

So choose and designate one person to remind you of that
and when they speak the truth in love:
Really listen.
Then act accordingly.

There is an early 6th century hymn that was written on the island of Iona— some say it was written by St. Columba himself.
There is this wonderful line in that hymn:
Thousands of angels rejoicing in holy dances.
That is not just about what it feels like on one’s ordination day.
That is what it feels like to any of us
when we live fully
into the wondrous mystery
of God’s on-going presence in our lives.

Thousands of angels rejoicing in holy dances.

In times of celebration and in times of weariness,
in times of helping someone bear their suffering,
and in times of helping someone share their joy,

I pray that God will keep your eyes, your mind and your heart,
always open, Danae,
so that you will see God moving in your priesthood:
like thousands of angels rejoicing in holy dances.

Holy, holy, holy.

Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 
4The pivots* on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph* touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
 he gave gifts to his people.’ 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

John 10:11-18
11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

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