Monday, June 27, 2005

Presiding for the First Time Part II

Here I am after presiding for the first time. (I am happier than I look!)

I just wanted to point out that my stole was handcrafted by a good friend, Jane Gober. If you like it as much as I do, you may want to get in touch with her - She may very well be able to make one for you, and for a reasonalbe price.


Presiding for the First Time

My ordination was a big deal. But, I must say, presiding for the first time was a little more momentous.

As I reflect and think about it, this makes sense. What I have been working toward all this time, in seminary and in the church, is not a status, but the fulfillment of a particular vocation. I have not been called by God and the church to this ministry in order that I might be called priest; the calling is instead to a vocation that includes the priveledge of presiding at the Holy Eucharist, the task of gathering God's holy people around the holy altar. That is why I am called priest, because I have been called to minister to the church in a specific way. And finally living out this ministry is a greater gift and priveledge than the ordination. The ordination is the the church's invitation; the ministry is the church's celebration.

I have hesitated to think too much about this, but I do wonder sometimes whether anyone has ever presided at the Eucharist in my condition. I imagine it has happened, but I can't imagine that it has happened that often. I know that for some, to see a crippled man sit in as the icon of Christ, may offend their sense of who Christ is.

But I wonder if this might point to something important about who Christ is. In the same way that a woman presiding at the eucharist points to the fact that the Son of God took on all flesh in the incarnation, perhaps a crippled man presiding also points to a theological truth that we overlook. On the cross, one of the most important revelatory events in Jesus' life, we see that Jesus not only suffers but that he himself is crippled, and disabled. Thankfully we know the story of Easter, and know that even this man, the one suffering on the cross, this disabled man, will rise again. In the same way at the eucharist, it is the cup of suffering that we drink, at the same time as it is the food and medicine of our immortality.

I only hope that as people see me at that table, they see not just a crippled man, but also the risen Christ, the one leading them out of suffering into joy, the one leading them out of death and into life. And all this not because of who I am, but by the power of the one that any presider points to, our risen Lord.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

So it Happened

So it happened - the bishop and the college of priests put their hands on me. The Holy Spirit came down. And I am a priest.

Though it has only taken me five years since I began the process that leads to priesting, it feels much longer. Perhaps like any ordinand, I went into the process because I had so much hope for the church.

That hope didn't last long. I entered seminary, found that the church is larger than St. Margaret's, and quickly discovered all the petty disputes and the larger and more serious conflicts. My hope wilted quickly when I discovered just how adolescent the actors in the church can be. The level of discourse is often about as civilised as that of boys in a sandbox fighting over the Tonka.

Thankfully I survived all this, though, and God did some good work with me. I met some good Christian people who have been in the church for a long time, without losing their faith or hope. Sometimes these were people acting on the larger stages of the church, sometimes priests and deacons faithfully living out their vocation, but more often than not they were faithful parishioners, faithfully praying, off-stage but with the knowledge of how human the church is. It was not debilitating them in the way it was debilitating me. It is these folks that strengthened my hope, not because they were naive about the church, but because their trust was in God.

So, from hope to despair to a renewed hope. A renewed hope despite the experience of a very human church. (When I say human, I guess I mean a little screwed up). God has put me on some good footing; faith in God, faith in Jesus, faith in the continued work of the Holy Spirit leads to hope in the church. And I have hope in the church, because I have faith in God.

This is a pretty good place for a baby priest to be.