Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Priest Sermon 3

Ordination.Priesthood.09.St. Peter’s
Ordination is one of our sacraments.
Sacrament means God happening inside matter.
God happens in the bread and wine of Communion.
God happens in the water of Baptism.

It isn’t magic.
It isn’t that God is suddenly in a place where God wasn’t
until we conjure God up with the right words.
It’s that God manifests, becomes more palpable.
In the sacrament we notice God happening.
We pay attention.

In each sacrament, we see God happening in a different way.
So what are we looking for in ordination?
We are looking for something in Victoria
that is already there, has always been there,
but now it is going to manifest.

It is going to become more apparent
and we are going to pay attention
because it’s something we need to see.
But what is it?
Is she going to become more prayerful, more pious,
more serene, more wise?

It is important to know what we are looking for in a priest.
The people who look for too much,
are eventually disappointed,
and wind up expecting too little.
Some of us look for too little; so we miss a revelation.
For some odd reason I do not understand,
the people who start out looking for too little,
wind up expecting too much.

Some of us have gotten mixed up about Total Ministry.
It doesn’t mean expecting less of a priest.
It means expecting more of the laity and the deacons.

So what shall we expect of Victoria?
I have every confidence that she will continue
to grow in all the Christian virtues
– but she will not be suddenly perfected in them
when she changes her stole;
nor will she grow in the Christian virtues
any faster than the rest of the congregation;
nor is there any reason to believe she will be
more spiritual, more moral, or less squierrely
than the rest of us.

In all of these things,
she remains a Christian among Christians
muddling along as we all do.

The special grace we seen in the priest is her dedication
to a specific way of serving God and God’s people.
The best way I know to describe this ministry
is a certain metaphor.
I have been cautioned it’s a risky metaphor to use
in ordaining a woman,
but given Victoria’s successful career
in a field that used to be an old boy’s club,
I think I can risk it.

A priest, any priest, man or woman, is a homemaker.
In fact, most of the principles for priestly leadership
can be found in Better Homes and Gardens.
God is our true home.
God happens in the priest as one who makes a home for others.

Homer’s Odyssey still speaks to our hearts thousands of years
after he first sang it because it is the story of a man
whose single minded purpose is to go home.
Home is where we belong.
It may not be the town in which we grew up.
I never belonged in the town where I grew up.
I don’t know that I have ever been home.
I remember that line from Rocky Mountain High
about a man
“coming home to a place he’d never been before.”
I’m still hoping for that.

Our hearts need a place we know we will be accepted.
Remember Robert Frost said,
“Home is the place that when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”
There’s such security and such strength
in knowing you have somewhere to go.

Do you remember in the movie An Officer And A Gentleman,
when the drill sergeant finally breaks through
Officer Candidate Zach Mayo’s tough exterior.
He is pushing Zach to drop out when Zach admits his desperation,
“I’ve got no place to go.”
He had to make it in the Navy because he needed it to be his home.
We need a place where we know they’ll take us in.

And we need a place to rest.
All the motion and commotion of our daily activity
drain our energy, our joy, our taste for life.
We need to find our still point, like a rolling stone
finding its angle of repose.

St. Augustine prayed,
“O Lord . . . our hearts are restless until we rest in thee.”
Our spiritual home is resting in God.
The church is our sacrament of homecoming.
The church is where we meet God as home.

The special ministry of the priest is to lead, guide,
encourage the people who are the church
to be a home for each other,
and to be a home to all the spiritually homeless folks
outside our walls.

Some of you may know the song by Chantal Kreviazuk,
Feels Like Home To Me.
You may have heard it performed by Bonnie Rait
or Linda Ronstadt.
It’s a love song using this image of home.
My favorite part goes:
A window breaks down the street
And a siren wails over my head.
But I’m alright cause you are here with me
And I can almost see through the dark there’s a light.

If you knew how lonely life has been
If you knew how I’ve wanted someone . . . .
To change my life the way you’ve done.
Feels like home to me . . . .
Feels like I’m on my way back to where I come from.

The church is a spiritual home, and it is an entry way
to our ultimate home in God.
We invite people here because they need
to be here.
They need someone with them
when the window breaks and the siren wails.
We all need that.

Where I grew up, the word “hospitality” connoted trivial,
superficial manners toward guests.
But in the Ancient World of the Bible,
hospitality was the highest moral obligation.

Benedictine monks made the practice of hospitality
the centerpiece of their spiritual discipline.
Just so, the priest has the special ministry of hospitality,
of shaping the church into a home for the spiritually homeless.
This is a hard ministry.

It goes against the grain,
against the way of our inhospitable world;
Churches are not automatically hospitable.
To practice radical hospitality takes courage, patience,
faith, compassion – a whole complex of virtues.

Everything in the church – it’s architecture, its music,
the classes it does or does not teach,
and who it allows to teach them –
the way we include children on worship – or not
-- everything the church does is an opportunity
to let someone in or keep someone out.

Churches are not automatically safe places to be yourself.
The cruelest acts of exclusion I have ever seen have been in churches.
But the most unexpected, wonderful and downright miraculous
acts of inclusion I have ever seen have been in churches.
Sometimes we get it right.

The priest’s ministry is to make this place a home –
a home for those who have been here all their lives,
and a home for the stranger at the door.

There is homesickness in our nation, especially in our state.
People are dying of it – dying spiritually and even physically.
They need someone to keep the porch light on
and the hearth warm.

Let this church be a home to wayfarers and strangers
for we are all wayfarers and in our inmost hearts,
we are forever strangers in the world.
Let this church be a home.
And it will be richly blessed.
For in welcoming each other,
we will build ourselves a home in God.