Christ to comfort and restore me.
From "Saint Patrick's Breastplate"
So after I made my entry Tuesday night I IMed a lot of people who I didn't tag in it because I wanted them to read it. One of them replied, "Just remember, you don't have to be ordained to still do God's work." And he was right. I don't have to be ordained to do God's work. I do, however, have to be ordained to do what I think I'm called to do. When I replied with that he said, "Yeah, but it's not about you, remember it's about God." Fr. Jeff's conversation with me on Tuesday has been a good exercise all around. Wednesday I had a great conversation with Taylor Burton-Edwards about it that conversation and about ordination. He asked me a couple of questions that I had to answer "no" to. "Is you connection to The Episcopal Church based on the presumption that they will ordain you to the priesthood?" and "Is your connection to the Christian faith predicated on being recognized as a priest by someone?" There was another question, but I want to more fully explore my answers to those two before I move on to the third, because the third really made me think about my call into ordained ministry, and what it means, and what it entails. (Preview: It was affirming of my perception of call)
My connection to The Episcopal Church is based on the common worship of the church and the sacramental centrality of the denomination as a whole. Weekly Eucharist is a big part of that, but as I've spent more time examining the Church (both as a member and prior to my confirmation), the importance of baptism- throughout the Church (as opposed to just at the national level) - and the emphasis on living the Baptismal Covenant have been further attractions to me. That the Episcopal Church nationally is more socially liberal than the church of which I was a part also drew me. There were some things about ordination that drew me to TEC: transitional diaconate, not a three year probationary period, people being able to answer questions about the steps, a willingness to work with my being a student, remember that I am a student, and that "social justice" isn't a phrase of bad words to ecclesiastical bodies in my region of the country.
My connection to the Christian faith is not predicated on my being recognized as a presbyter in some expression of Christianity. While I believe that I am called to that kind of ministry and have gotten affirmation from a variety of other types of discernment groups, that is not why I am a Christian. I am a Christian in large part because I was raised in the South in a Christian family. I have never really had a "Why do I believe this?" moment in large part because I know it's mostly predicated on my having been born into it. However, as I have grown up and come to claim it for my own, I know that it is what works for me. I am not a Christian because I want to not go to Hell after I die (I don't really believe in a hell of fire and darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth; I think hell just as much as heaven can be here and now). I am a Christian because I believe Jesus was the Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world, and in doing so liberated us from sin and death. The Church was right to label Pelagius as a heretic; we cannot save ourselves. I am a Christian because I believe that accepting the grace God has given us frees us from having to live with Law - new or old - and that Law makes us aware of our need for God's grace and redemption. Furthermore, living in grace enables us to submit to Christ and to be honest about who we are with ourselves and others; behavior modification to please ourselves and others is not necessary if we're able to be truthful about our need. A truthfulness about our need for grace enables us to accept the grace and live lives of freedom.
And there was a third question the led to a whole lot of discussion. "How will you continue to fulfill the fullness of the baptismal calling in the more limited strictures of the priesthood [assuming the commission says yes the whole way through the process]?" He continued, "Priesthood can be understood either as a place of honor (being the center of congregational attention) or as a place of marginalization (being put off to the side, really, and inviting the community to join you in marginalization)...of the kingdom of God." I did a little thinking and I answered. As a priest I would continue to my best to live the Baptismal Covenant but by the grace of God and the authority given by Her Church invite and encourage the people to do the same while reminding them of their commitment to do just that as I preach the Gospel. Also, by the grace of God and the authority of Her Church make means of grace available to them that encourage and strengthen them into living into the marginalized place of the Kin-dom of God that is here and now and countercultural and revolutionary to the systems that be. If ordained a priest I will do my part to live the Baptismal Covenant and lead by example, but also baptize people into Christ's Body (that is past, present, and future), which gives the gift of the Holy Spirit and seals someone as Christ's own forever; reconcile penitents to one another, the Church, and God, which restores the soul to peace and the mind so that it might continue to function at ease; feeding them the most precious Body and Blood of Christ to nourish their souls and bodies; anointing the sick so that they might be healed, physically, mentally, or spiritually.
Earlier this week I wrote an entry titled, "What If..." Well, here is my answer to "What If..."
If the Commission on Ministry says, "No," I will, with God's help:
- still believe in God the Father
- still believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God
- still believe in God the Holy Spirit
- still continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers
- still persevere in resisting evil, and whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord
- still proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ
- still seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself
- still strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.