Saturday, August 1, 2015

Street Jesus

Preached on the occasion of The Rev. Michael Bordelon’s ordination to the priesthood.
There’s a short cartoon strip making its way around social media. It goes something like this.
A young man is having a private conversation with Jesus under the shade of a small tree. The two are facing one another, perched on a couple of large stones.
Signaling his passion and sincerity, the young man leans in toward Jesus. His hands punch and sweep the air as he speaks. He says, “You keep talking about love and justice and reconciliation. How can you allow so much hunger and poverty, suffering and degradation, violence and prejudice in the world?”
Jesus is listening patiently. When the young man finishes, Jesus calmly says, “That’s funny, I was just about to ask you the same thing.”


Jesus is not speaking to just that young man. He’s talking to you and me. He’s talking to the Church. God has a mission, and he has a Church to carry out that mission.
The concluding prayer from the Litany for Ordination could not make this any clearer. 
The bishop prays for God to look favorably upon God’s Church. He then goes on to pray that God’s providence carry out the plan of salvation. 
In other words, God is carrying out the plan of Salvation through the Church. God is raising up what has been cast down, making new what has grown old, and bringing all things to perfection through Jesus.
The Church is a Eucharistic community. A Eucharistic community is more than a group of people who like to worship in a particular way.
The essence of the Eucharist is this. 
We gather to give ourselves to Jesus just as as we are. Shabby, distracted, hesitant, fearful, cranky, wounded, irritable, lonely, foot sore, and world weary. We could use a shower, a cup of coffee, a talking to, a vacation, or at least a long nap.
The world is big and beautiful, ruined and aching. Its problems are too big for us. And we fragile, fractious humans happen to be one of the world’s biggest problems.

So, against all reason, Jesus bids us give our too small, too timid selves to him.
In turn, Jesus gives us back to ourselves as the very Body of Christ. He weaves us into his eternal life, into his very self.
Now for those who seek merely to be comforted, to get our fill and take to the La-Z-Boy, to get the holy cookie and take a little snooze, I have some disturbing news. The Body of Christ  does not take well to the sedentary life.
Jesus is, after all, the redeemer, the restorer, and the healer of the entire creation. Once we get woven into his Body, we are engaged in God’s mission whether we like it or not. 
We may engage enthusiastically or indifferently. We may take great risks in the name of Jesus or play it safe in the name of our own comfort and security. 
But Jesus has made us instruments of God’s mission. We will be either effective, useful instruments or go dull and rusty through disuse.
Today we gather to ordain Michael Bordelon to the Sacred Order of Priests. It’s a big day for Michael, his family, and his friends. But let’s be clear that the sacrament we celebrate today is not all about Michael. The sacrament of ordination is about the Church.
God is ordering—renewing, refreshing, and transforming—the very Body of Christ to make it more capable of engaging God’s mission.
We have not gathered to watch God do something to Michael. We have gathered to submit ourselves to God’s ordering—God’s shaping and forming and organizing—of all of us. 
Michael is being woven into all of us—into the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church—in a new way. He is one of the baptized entrusted with the care, the nurture, and the goading of all the baptized.
Michael is being remade. And we are all being remade along with him.
Michael, today you are accepting God’s invitation to play a particular role in God’s gathering and sending of God’s people. You are being given the gift and grace to gather people around Jesus’ holy word and his holy Table.
You are to preside at Jesus’ feast for God’s people and to lead them into the world for which Jesus has given his life.

Neither seminary, nor ordination, nor years of faithfully studying, preaching, and teaching the Gospel will make you a God expert. 
Some people expect priests to be God experts. But let’s be honest with each other. There is no such thing. We are all just children in the infinite depths of the divine mysteries.
You will only betray your vocation, diminish your soul, and do violence to the people God calls you to serve if you think that you are a God expert and expect others to treat you like one.
You are God’s beloved, just like every other baptized person (well, like every person, sparrow, dandelion, carp, electron, galaxy, and caterpillar, but that’s a sermon for another day). 
Like every baptized person God’s love for you lays a very specific claim on your life forever.
Like all of the baptized, God’s love beckons you to love God and love your neighbor. Loving God comes to fruition when we give ourselves to being God’s instrument of redemption, healing, and restoration on this planet.
And now, Michael, I ask you to stand to receive your charge. 
We ordain people to the priesthood—we are ordaining you to the priesthood—to keep reminding God’s Church that we are God’s beloved and to keep goading us to act like it. 
Get out of your office and into your neighborhood. Feast on Word and Sacrament in order to be the Gospel in the world. Love your people so that they will follow you out of the building and onto the streets. 
Jesus is already out there. Let’s not keep him waiting any longer.
This sermon was preached at St. James Episcopal Church in Alexandria, LA.

No comments:

Post a Comment