In nomine Jesu!
"...a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;"
A time to be scrutinized and a time to discern.
After the breaking down; after the building up; after the weeping and laughing; after all that discerning and scrutinizing; after the dancing we call the candidacy process; after the psych evals and background checks; after specialized education and after waiting and waiting and waiting for a multitude of committees, conferences, faculties, boards and HR offices to act, it's finally time, Carol.
Just as it was time for Qohelet, the author of Ecclesiastes, to try to make sense out of absurdities of life.
Just as it was time for the Apostle Paul to bid farewell to his favorite congregation â€” his "joy and crown," as he calls them in his letter to them, those Philippians â€” and, betting his life on
his boast that he could "do all things through Christ who strengthens" him â€” sail back to Jerusalem to face his fiercest critics and their verdict of death.
Just as it was time for Jesus, after thirty years of silence and forty days in the wilderness "to return to Galilee and begin teaching in their synagogues," it's finally time.
Time for the Church to declare for all to hear and know and see that you are worthy and you are able to bear the weight of the Word of God and speak and act for the whole Church of God and publicly serve for the sake of the world.
Time for our Bishop â€” exercising Christ's authority and embodying both the ministry of Christ and the ministry of the whole Church of Christ â€” it's time for our Bishop to joyfully and thankfully focus Christ's power and the Spirit's strength on you and into you and your ministry, authorizing and empowering you to focus your words and your actions and be the face of Christ and the embodiment of Christ's Church for the sake of the world. It's time.
And so, after a few more questions, a few more
prayers and a few more exhortations, it will soon be time for you to be ordained and publicly acclaimed "a called and ordained ministry in the Church of Christ. It's finally time.
I hope you listened carefully to your job description, Christ's self-description, your self-description, in the Gospel today.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Good news to the poor, release to the captive, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, the time of the Lord's favor â€” all of this embodied in you and proclaimed in word and action by you to those you serve â€” in your case, mostly patients who are mostly certain that it's not the Lord's nor anyone else's favor that they are experiencing as you meet them. Meet them as Christ. Meet them with Christ. Bring to their disposal the resources of the whole Church and
the communion of all the saints in heaven and on earth. That's all you have to do; except for paperwork â€”which you'll hate: the forms and the charts for your chaplaincy supervisors and the annual report to the Bishop â€” but which both memorializes and enables supervision of your ministry.
According to the Church and its processes, the Bishop and his colleagues, HealthCare Chaplaincy and all our carefulness and all of us gathered here or joined to us here in prayer and thanksgiving from virtually everywhere, you are ready! It is time! This is that "kairotic moment" in which Christ and Christ's Church are focused on you so that in all times to come you may be Christ and bring Christ and Christ's Church â€” that is, the fullness of the Gospel which is the will of God that holds heaven and earth in a single peace â€” to bear on the lives you touch.
Your motto through all those previous times has been "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Hang on to that motto; you'll need to cling to its promise more in this time than in the time before.
And lest we think that the words of these texts,
the rites of ordination and the weight of this ministry are all about Carol, I ask you to remember that, because they are in fact all about Christ and all about Christ's people, they are all about us too. Carol is authorized, empowered, ordained, dare I say, compelled to this ministry, but this ministry belongs to each of us and all of us too. Not by virtue of ordination, but by virtue of our baptism; because what Jesus says about himself and the Church says about Carol is exactly what God says about all of us too. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon all of us." Uncompelled but similarly empowered, we are all called to fulfill Jesus' job description too; and at the table, we are nourished to be what we are baptized to be, to be what we eat and drink, Jesus Christ embodied for us in bread and wine so that we might embody that same Christ in the world.
One more word to you, Carol, from that Ecclesiastes â€” you chose it so I assume you want it spoken as a charge to you and to us, as much as any of the other charges you will hear shortly:
[We] know that there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy this life as long as we live;
moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in our toil. We know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before God.
Be happy in your ministry Carol. Be happy in your ministry, sisters and brothers in Christ. God is doing this so that all should stand in awe! And now, it's time!
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; Psalm 91; Philippians 4:10-13; Saint Luke 4: 14-21