Sermon for the Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate
for Chris Cole, Sam Tallman, Ginny Wilder and Matthew Wright
December 17, 2011
The Catherdral of All Souls, Asheville, NC
That’s what I have written at the top of my sermon----deep breath!
In gigantic, big letters.
I know that message is for me
and probably good advice for you four who are about to be ordained--
and probably for this entire gathering of God’s people this morning.
Because ordinations ARE deep breath moments.
Look at all these people!!
(I think I heard they were putting in a live feed across the street at Starbucks!)
All these people--
your families, your friends--
all these people
are here because they love you--WE love you!!
We are also here because you give us hope for the Church.
Ordinations ARE futuristic in the best sense of the word.
I look at the four of you--Chris and Sam and Ginny and Matthew--
and all I can really think is WOW!
Here you are today--at the Cathedral--and you’re all wearing COLLARS!!
You listened and heard and responded to God’s holy call.
You hopped in this little car
on the Episcopal roller coaster
This journey has no doubt felt distinctly uphill much of the time---
yet you are here today,
soon to say in response to the Bishop and to the Church,
“I believe I am so called.”
Ordinations are like being in the front car of the roller coaster
and you have been going what feels like up up up up up
for such a long time....
and now you have crested the hill...
and you can't see anything!!!!
It feels like there is nothing out there..
...it suddenly feels like the world
has dropped away from beneath you
and you are going over the edge!
There’s only one thing to do:
(That’s the colloquial version of your ordination vows!
This is in not the end of your wild ride.
There will be more ups and downs to come.
Even before today, you have probably let loose
a scream or two in this process.
Perhaps even an occasional shout
to stop the ride and let you off--
you DIDN’T get off.
You DIDN’T stop.
Nor did God.
Your collective journeys
have led you to interesting and diverse places--
an ashram in India,
the hallowed halls of the Biltmore Estate,
pilgrimages to Turkey, to Wales,
to the Holy Land,
to our companion diocese of Durgapur,
to CPE and Camp Kanuga
and the Appalachian Trail.
You have brokered financial deals, bagged groceries,
written songs, whirled with the Sufis,
trained employees, been employees,
played with the Fighting Friars, prayed with the monks,
and more. Much more.
You have worshipped with incense and with praise music.
You have prayed in chapels and beside the ruins of chapels.
You have seen God’s face in your classmates
and in people living on the streets.
I hope you have become very, very aware of the saints in your lives
who have made sacrifices
so that you can be where you are today.
Alll this and more has led you to this day.
December 17, 2011.
On this day in history
the poet Rumi died
the Aztec calendar stone was excavated
the US Government closed their official study of UFOs--
and the first episode of the Simpsons aired.
The Simpsons is the longest running animated series ever.
The creator Matt Groening has described the characters as
“creatures of consumption and envy,
laziness and opportunity,
stubborness and redemption.
Matt Groening says, “The Simpsons are just like the rest of us.
Just like the rest of us.
A dispute arose among the apostles
as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
These are the words we heard in Luke’s gospel this morning.
We don’t have to be in the process of ordination
to get all tied up in disputes among the apostles.
It is easy to waste a lot of time worrying about who is the greatest--
trying to over-work and “out-holy” our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But the instructions Jesus gives to all of us is simple:
Our work, our call is not to be regarded as “the greatest”--
our part is to serve. Our PART is to serve.
When the whole community of disciples are called together,
as told in the Acts of the Apostles,
the instructions are
to devote ourselves to prayer and to serving.
Matt Groening is right--
we ARE like the Simpsons.
We live in a world obsessed with being the greatest,
having the most, beating out the other guy or girl,
Even in the first century,
Jesus notes that there are
those who are much admired
for wielding their power
and their position and their prestige over others.
Jesus notes that yes,
most people believe
that to sit at the table and be waited on
makes you special, makes you great,
makes you important.
But Jesus is never one to do the expected.
Here in Luke’s gospel,
Jesus says, ...I am among you as one who serves.
I am AMONG you as one who serves.
That is OUR call.
Not just the call for Matthew and Ginny and Sam and Chris.
We are all called to serve.
Not for reward or recognition
or promotion to a position of power.
Not to show the world how great we are or how important we are
or how holy we are.
Our vocation is to serve and to love.
We are called to live and to be
among our beautifully diverse brothers and sisters
on this beautifully diverse planet,
to love and serve one another
because we were all formed,
we were all consecrated
in the womb of God’s love.
On this day, December 17, 2011,
Ginny and Sam and Chris and Matthew
you will be ordained.
You will continue on the journey of your call to the priesthood.
Let go of any thoughts of being the greatest
and just be truly present with God’s people, with us,
In your diaconal call to serve,
may you breathe deeply,
and live joyfully.
(Thanks to Tom Whittington for the above two photographs!