This article appears in St. Christopher's February newsletter.
A Reminder I Need
“…you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” BCP, 378
God was willing, and the people consented: Tom Turner, ordained priest last night, January 24, in nearby (or at least not too far away) Alice, Texas. Brimful, dressed up, lungs full of song. Great day for Tom; great day for God’s Church. Like baptisms, ordinations never get old for me; nights like these are never “just another worship service.” A helpful reminder, perhaps, that no service is “just another”, but each one, every time, is wonderful entrance, tiny taste, of the Kingdom, as often as we gather. Still, ordinations have a way of leaving no doubt. It is always and all joy to witness these celebrations; to participate with brother and sister clergy, to lift glad praises alongside extended family, the duly proud parishioners of Episcopal Church of the Advent. We were told that Tom’s ordination was the first in the 128 year history of the church.
The long procession of acolytes, choir, and clergy began in the narthex and trailed out deep into the courtyard, so that the bright first hymn came to those of us in the courtyard’s shadows as if on tape delay; as if the glory of worship radiated out from the sanctuary and into a world that may or may not have been mindful of the miracle of this people and this moment.
Shortly after the procession and initial presentation, the bishop landed on this prayer, appropriate to ordinations, that always stops me short:
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably upon your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Church – the People of God – is a wonderful and sacred mystery. What a wonderful reminder. A reminder I need; a reminder I cherish. Reminder that God pours His grace on His People as He carries out the plan of salvation in peace. Reminder that the lives of God’s People witness the raising up of cast down things and the making new of things grown old. Reminder that that which God began God will see through to the end – is perfecting – by, with, and in His Son Jesus Christ. Reminder that the People of God are the Body of Christ.
The Church is a wonderful and sacred mystery. And so you are: saints of God assembled and working for Christ and His Kingdom as lawyers, teachers, businesspeople, students, directors, mothers and fathers, therapists, nurses, real estate agents, counselors, and, yes, sometimes priests. God’s Church is God’s People, and God’s People are wonderful, sacred mystery, beloved of our Lord.
I thank God for this mystery – that is, I thank God for you. You are agents of God’s grace in a world so much in need of grace. “Give ‘em grace!” a priest friend used to dismiss our worship with those words. I pray that, by God’s grace, the world will know God’s love through you.