Saturday, March 22, 2008

Christos anesti!

It was a joy to baptize my godson George Preston Alexander Sparkman tonight. He is the baby pictured below. To listen to the sermon that I gave, click here.





Friday, March 21, 2008

Flowering of the Passion

Legend has it that in 1620 a Jesuit Priest came across the plant we now know as passion flower. Enthralled with its beauty, that night he had a vision likening its floral parts to the elements of the passion of Christ. The five petals and five sepals became the ten apostles (omitting Peter who denied Jesus and Judas who betrayed Jesus). The three pistils became the nails of the cross; the purple corona (or filaments) was the crown of thorns, and the stemmed ovary was the Lord's chalice of suffering which he accepted at Gethsemane.

The night in which he was betrayed

To listen to this sermon online, click here.

Jesus said, “ ‘Behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table’ And [the disciples] began to question one another about which of them it was who would do this”; from the Gospel of St Luke in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Tonight we commemorate the institution of the priesthood and of the Holy Eucharist. And to help us appreciate what is in the spotlight tonight, I’d like us to turn our attention for a moment to what lies in the shadows—a man who rejected his ministry and who broke communion.

We do not know for sure at exactly what point Judas Iscariot left the Upper Room. Luke’s gospel mentions Judas’ betrayal after the words of institution along with various items of dinner conversation that seem to be listed in no particular order. Matthew and Mark give an almost identical description of Judas at the table before those crucial words of Jesus “this is my Body” and “this is my Blood.” John’s gospel does not give us the familiar institution narrative, but he does, however, mention the early departure of Judas after the washing of feet and before Jesus’ high-priestly prayer.

We are told that the others thought that Judas left to go purchase more supplies for the Passover feast, since he was the one who carried the common purse. This would indicate that Judas left before the Holy Communion, which took place, as the other gospels tell us, “after supper.” Another clue to the timing might be in Jesus’ clue about the betrayer. “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it,” Jesus said. Then he adds, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

Exactly when he left, we do no know for sure. But we do know why he left. Why is this night different from all other nights? That departure forever colored the ritual that would continue in the Mass throughout history—the sacrament of unity, the feast of love. For in most every Prayer Book and every liturgical rite throughout Christendom, those sacred words of consecration are introduced the same way: “On the night in which he was betrayed . . .” [Note: Prayer A has different wording, "the night he was handed over" and Prayer D, which is based upon the Liturgy of St Basil, uses John's language, "when the hour had come for him to be glorified."]

I remember turning the pages through a large picture book on Jesus I picked up from a used book store a few years ago. It’s a wonderful book with gospel excerpts, and it is filled with historic Christian artwork depicting the people and events described. When I got to the page describing the Last Supper, I stopped when I saw the picture. I had never seen anything like it before.

It was a picture of the Last Supper in the traditional style of the Eastern icon. Jesus and the apostles were each depicted with a halo or nimbus around the head. Normally, if Judas is in the scene, you can clearly identify him because he is the only one who does not have a halo around his head. This picture caught my attention because it is the only one I’ve seen in which Judas does have a halo. The difference is that unlike the other nimbuses, which are golden, the halo of Judas is solid black.

Judas Iscariot will be eternally known as the man who betrayed Jesus Christ. In at least twenty languages, his name is a synonym for “traitor.” To think of Judas, or to mention his name, is to evoke the image of the whole-cloth traitor. He is the traitor prototype.

Yet there is no good reason for supposing that when he was originally called by Jesus to be one of his own special disciples that Judas was already up to treachery; or that he was any less enthusiastically devoted to Jesus, any less worthy of that call, or any less determined to follow Jesus to the end than the eleven others chosen by Jesus at the same time. Nor can we suppose that Jesus withheld from Judas any of the special divine graces that he conferred on the other disciples who were to hold the office of apostle.

Judas seems to have shared completely in the charism of what would later be called an Apostle, a chief pastor, thus prefiguring—as did all of the Twelve—what we call today the bishops (overseers) of the Church. Living with Jesus day and night, traveling with him, hearing his words and seeing his actions, collaborating with him in his work, sent out by Jesus with a mandate to preach the kingdom of God, to cure the sick, to exorcise demons, to exercise his authority, to rely on spiritual weapons and supernatural means, Judas was in every sense one with the disciples.

Yet it was Judas who finally betrayed Jesus. The personal outline of Judas in the pages of the New Testament is dim on all points—except for his awful treachery. Understandably, the writers would not, could not, remark anything good or even interesting about Judas, except his treachery. In the light of Jesus’ resurrection and the subsequent descent of the Holy Spirit on the remaining Apostles, all that mattered in the eyes of the New Testament writers was that gross treachery, and all they could express for the traitor was utter contempt and abhorrence.

There is perhaps no parallel in the New Testament record to those sad words of Jesus, “It would have been better for him if he had never been born.” And yet that’s not what Jesus wanted for him, at the beginning or the end. The New Testament dismissal of Judas as a traitor has inclined Christians to see him in a bad light from the beginning of his association with Jesus, as a kind of infiltrator admitted by Jesus to the intimacy of his special people, because, it was reckoned, somebody had to betray the Lord.

Yet, we must understand that it didn’t have to happen that way. Jesus could have simply said, “The time is appointed. Let us go down to see the Sandhedrin that I may stand trial for the charges against me.” Judas’ betrayal was utterly unnecessary.

From a divine and a human point of view, Judas must have initially appeared as one of the more promising candidates for leadership in Christ’s future Church. Judas seems to be the only experienced official among the group. In the eyes of the other Apostles, Judas held a high kingdom office.

We cannot reasonably doubt that Judas started off with great enthusiasm and devotion to Jesus, and with full trust and confidence in Jesus’ ultimate success. We know that, for the other companions (until well after the Resurrection) success meant a political restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, with the Apostles occupying twelve thrones of judgment.

Here is where disillusion set in for Judas Iscariot. More in touch with practical affairs than the others, more alive to the politics of his land, he would only grow in disillusionment each time Jesus repudiated attempt after attempt to crown him leader and king. Jesus spoke instead of his suffering and death.

At any given moment Judas could have left Jesus and “walked with him no more,” as many are recorded to have done. But no, Judas wanted to stay. He believed, after his own fashion, in Jesus and his group and their ideals. Yet, he wanted Jesus and the others to be realistic—i.e., to conform to political and social realities, to follow his plan, not whatever plans Jesus may have had.

He certainly formed his own ideas about the sensible way Jesus should go about seizing supreme power and realizing the kingdom of God. Now, in the heady atmosphere of collaboration with the authorities, he saw his way opening out to vistas of greatness, a chief position in the future Kingdom of Israel, once the Romans were driven out and the local Jewish leaders, with the help of Jesus, utterly defeated the hated Romans.

Even when Jesus told him plainly and frankly during that last Passover meal that, yes, he knew it was Judas who would betray him, that made no dent in Judas’ resolution. “Is it I, Master?” said Judas. “You have said so,” Jesus answered.

Remember that Jesus identified his betrayer in this way: “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” From the ritual of the Passover, this seems to follow the blessing over the Matza before the actual supper began. The blessing and breaking of a single piece of matza to be shared with everyone at the table signified their unity. For the head of the supper to dip it in the haroset and give it to one of the guests was a token of affection. Yet both this loving gesture and the fact that Jesus knew about the betrayal were not enough to dissuade Judas from the path he had chosen.

Perhaps Judas did not fully grasp Jesus’ use of the word “betray” at that moment. Many times in the past, he had “betrayed” Jesus in the sense that he had done the opposite of Jesus’ express will, and things had always turned out just fine. That compromise plan still seemed the best to Judas. The ultimate blindness closed in on his soul like a steel trapdoor. “Satan,” the Gospel of John states, “entered his heart.” And we can be sure he was in some sense welcomed in.

Judas was now under the control of the one personality who stood to lose the most by any success Jesus might have. Judas could, without any scruple and always fully persuaded that his plan was fine, go and find the Temple authorities, his “high-level contacts,” and pinpoint the place where Jesus would be at a certain hour, and identify Jesus to the armed force sent out to bring him in.

Only this, thought Judas, would spark the long-sought fight for liberation. Every single event that followed began with Judas’ decision. It all began, “On the night in which he was betrayed” . . .

The terrible agony in Gethsemane; the violence done to Jesus at his arrest and at his mock trials during the night; the hours of imprisonment and abuse by Roman soldiers; the crowning with thorns and the scornful mocking of his person, his arraignment before Pilate and Herod; his scourging; the painful, agonizing path to Golgotha; the searing pain of crucifixion, followed by three hours of waiting for the peace of death,hours divided into weakening efforts not to suffocate.

While the ultimate consequence of Judas’ choice was Jesus’ crucifixion, his specific sin was compromise And we must understand that it really seemed to him a wise and prudent compromise given the impossible situation into which Jesus had boxed himself and his disciples by his violent attacks on the status quo and by his refusal to meet Jewish authorities halfway.

This, then, is the essence of the "Judas complex": one’s compromise of basic principles in order to fit in with the ideas and interests of the world.

The principle of the disciples was Jesus—his person, his authority, his teaching. Their obligation was to Jesus, to remain faithful through conflict and confusion. Judas had been persuaded by his corrupters that all that Jesus stood for had to be modified by a decent and sensible compromise.

Judas was not the only disciple who deserted Jesus in that trying moment—they all did. Judas was not the only one who sinned. He was not the only one who ran away. Peter’s denial was also foretold. So how was Judas different from the rest? He was the only one who did not come back.

Ironically, though he chose compromise with the world over faithfulness to Christ, his own sense of shame and guilt was uncompromising. Judas never gave a thought or opportunity to his own forgiveness. He never thought that the one who had forgiven so many sins and healed so many hearts would welcome back one of his own. His soul was lost to despair and the Satan who had entered his heart was surely pleased when he executed himself, hanging on a tree outside Jerusalem—one last mockery.

Do not be like Judas. Beware, is easier have a Judas complex than you think. If you do, you’d probably be the last person to see yourself as a betrayer. It is so easy to fall into the trap of what may seem like a sensible compromise with the world.

Tonight, no matter how far you have wandered into the world, no matter how often you may have faced the challenges of the faith with what may have seemed at the time like a sensible compromise, you have the opportunity to some back to the Table.

Which such a precious gift as the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would compromise their loyalty to him. And yet we do. We wander and stray from his ways like lost sheep, following the devices and desires of our own hearts.

“Is it I, Lord?” Note: the question is not “Is it him, Lord?” or “Is it her, Lord?” but “Is it I, Lord?” That may be the most healthy question we can ponder to prepare our hearts to return to his Table of Fellowship and Altar of Sacrifice. The turning point for Judas was very subtle—the idea that I know better than the Lord. He was willing to compromise his Lord because he thought he knew better. And yet, Jesus’ love for Judas (from day one) was never compromised. When Jesus offered himself as an atonement for the sins of the world, Jesus was offering himself for Judas too.

Oh, that he had only repented and accepted God’s mercy like the others. “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for him if he had never even been born.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday: Mass and Priesthood


“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” 1 Corinthians 11:26

We gather on the Thursday of this Holy Week to begin recalling the central mysteries of our redemption—the betrayal, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. A few weeks ago, I was looking ahead at my books on ceremonial about the liturgies of Holy Week, and I came across a curious thing. I don’t recall many ceremonial directives about sermons in there. But there was one for one day this week—Maundy Thursday. It read, “It is proper that, at the usual point, a sermon should be preached on the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood” (E. C. R. Lamburn, Ritual Notes, 11th Ed., p. 320).

I thought I might do just that, for an understanding of the Eucharist and the priesthood seems essential, not only for grasping the truths about this night, but also for grasping the meaning of the redemptive suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. One thing that should be made clear from the beginning is that, for his holy Catholic Church in all times and places, Jesus is our great High Priest. “Priest” comes from the Greek word presbyter, which means “elder.”

A priest is by definition one who is an elder or wise leader within a community, or one who serves as the father of a tribal family. In that position, he is set apart or “consecrated” to God and his service. A priest is devoted to God with his entire being, and thus devoted to God’s people as well. A priest is an intercessor and a mediator. He goes to meet with God on behalf of the people, and he speaks to the people on behalf of God.

We might say that priesthood began with Adam. He was created in God’s image, to do the will of God as his servant. And as a being made to be a reflection of God’s own image, Adam was a priest. He was consecrated to God in all his being. Humanity fulfilled God’s will through Adam, who conversed with him face-to-face. But sin damaged that office in which Adam stood as a pries of God. In Adam we became rebellious priests—disobedient sons. In his disobedience, we embraced the opposite of a priestly office. Instead of consecrating our life and labor to God, we withheld it as our own, saying, “My will be done.” With the advent of sin, we became unworthy to minister to the Lord.

The priestly duty of offering sacrifice means presenting a gift to God as a sign of love, in recognition of his supreme dominion over all creation. Our sinful nature wants to claim dominion for ourselves alone. Yet, in his mercy, God nurtured the ministry of the patriarchs and the elders of Israel even as they offered imperfect worship. He taught them through prophets, and raised up priests to reconsecrate the people to the Lord. Indeed, the people as a whole were a kind of nation of priests, sanctifying the world by being a holy presence within it—a “light to the nations.”

Sin brought a new task to priestly work—making atonement for sin. Sacrifice would henceforth not merely be a sign of love, it would also be a desperate plea for mercy. The problem was that such priests, rebellious by nature, could only offer imperfect sacrifices. These were but a type or shadow of the real thing. In the fullness of time, God sent his Son into the world. The eternal Word took human flesh from the blessed Virgin Mary. This was the new Adam—the obedient and humble servant. The first Adam brought sin and death into the world; the second Adam brought forgiveness and life.

St Paul put it this way in his letter to the Church of Rome: “For as by the one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” [Romans 5:19]. As the righteous servant, Jesus was able to be the priest that Adam was not. Jesus could offer the one true pleasing sacrifice to God the eternal Father, because he offered it with a truly sinless and humble heart. And that fulfillment of all sacrifices was to be the gift of himself. “For in [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” St Paul wrote to the Colossians, “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless before him” [Colossians 1:19-20]. The union of the human and divine in Jesus is essential to his priestly work.

Holy Week and Easter have no real meaning without the Incarnation. The human and divine natures are united in the one person of Christ, as the ecumenical council of Chalcedon puts it: united “without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation” [BCP, p. 864]. He is the one mediator between God and man—bringing divinity and humanity together in himself. And in bringing the two together, Jesus mediated a New Covenant. The Old Covenant was sealed with the shedding of blood. When Moses declared all the commandments of God to the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, and sprinkled both the book of the Law and the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you” [Exodus 24:6-8].

This act of Moses long ago foreshadowed the way that the New Covenant would be sealed in the shed blood of Christ. Jesus offered himself to the Father as the Passover lamb on this night—a sacrifice to spare people from their sins, just as the blood of the Passover lamb spared the lives of the Hebrews when they marked their door-posts with its blood so the angel of death would know to pass over them.

The author of Hebrews speaks a great deal about Jesus as our great High Priest. The crucifixion is a kind of liturgy. Jesus enters the veil of heaven through his death to offer his own blood on the mercy seat, just as the high priest of Israel offered the blood of bulls and goats in the Holy of Holies on the day of Atonement. Jesus is our great High Priest.

In his divine plan, our blessed Lord wanted to share that priesthood with us. Like Israel before, those in his Church are to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation . . .” [1 Peter 2:9]. Together, the laos (the "people" of God), by virtue of their union with Christ in holy Baptism, share in what we call “the priesthood of all believers.” This is a ministry of service, love, and mission, to which all Christians are called. Believers must mediate Christ’s love and his saving gospel to the world. Like Israel, we are to be a “light to the nations.” Jesus often spoke of a kind of renewal of Israel in the kingdom of God; part of that messianic mission was to renew Israel’s elders. While he is the only true priest or elder, he shares that priestly work with those whom he calls in his Church.

Early in Mark’s gospel, we read, “He now went up onto the mountain and summoned those he wanted. And he ordained Twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have the power to heal sickness, and to cast out devils” [Mark 3:14-15]. Jesus called out certain men whom he ordained to do the kinds of things he was doing. As Moses laid hands on Joshua and gave him authority to care for the people, Jesus gave the Twelve authority to teach and to heal, and even gave them a share in his ministry of divine reconciliation.

After his resurrection, we read in John’s gospel, “Then Jesus said unto [the apostles] again, ‘Peace be unto you: as my Father sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he said this, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit: whose sins you forgive are forgiven; and whose sins you retain are retained’” [John 20:20-23].

However, in theological discourse down through the years, when teachers and bishops talked about the institution of holy orders, they did not so much look to this early mountaintop experience nor to this post-resurrection blessing as they did to the Upper Room. The
institution of the Christian ministerial priesthood is always connected with the institution of the holy Eucharist—Sacrament of the Altar.

One of the best books for those studying for the priesthood is The Christian Priest Today by the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Arthur Michael Ramsey. In an early chapter called “Why a Priest,” he outlines four unique qualities of the priest in today’s Anglican Church. The priest is the “man of theology”, the “minister of reconciliation,” the “man of prayer”, and the “man of the Eucharist.” Concerning the last quality, he notes the following:

“The liturgy indeed belongs to all the people. We being many are the one bread, one body. We take, we break, we offer, we receive . . . Where then, and why then, the priests? As a celebrant, he is more than the people’s representative. In taking, breaking, and consecrating, he acts in Christ’s name and in the name not only of the particular congregation, but of the holy Catholic Church down through the ages. By his office as celebrant he symbolizes the focusing of the Eucharist in the givenness of the historic gospel and in the continuing life of the Church as rooted in that gospel. He finds that at the Altar he is drawn terribly and wonderfully near not only to the benefits of Christ’s redemption, but to the redemptive act itself”
[A. M. Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today, pp. 9-10].

Archbishop Ramsey touches upon two fundamental truths about the connection between the Eucharist and the priesthood. The first is summed up in the old theological axiom sacerdos alter Christus“the priest is another Christ.” That is, by virtue of the grace of holy orders, the Christian priest is indelibly and metaphysically conformed to Christ—the ultimate source and irreplaceable model of his priesthood. Thus, Jesus’ will that the apostles “do this as my memorial” requires that they stand in the place of Christ and speak his words (i.e., not “this is his Body”, but “this is my Body.”)

The second truth Ramsey touches upon is that the Eucharist is a participation in Christ’s redemptive work. It is not simply a reminder that these things once happened—a mere symbol or aide to help call to mind past events. Rather, the Eucharist is a real participation in past events, the constitutor of a present reality, and the foretaste of the future kingdom.

The Eucharist manifests past works of God’s redemption. St Paul told the Corinthian Church, “as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. The catechism of the Prayer Book reminds us, “The Holy Eucharist, the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, is the way by which the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and in which he unites us to his one offering of himself” [BCP, p. 859]. Not only does the Eucharist participate in past events, it is also a present reality. In the blessed Sacrament, Jesus is our “Emmanuel”—God with us. The Word made flesh tabernacles among us. It is in the celebration of the holy Eucharist that the Church is constituted—the mystical Body of Christ on earth.

While the Eucharist is a participation in past and present, let us not forget that the Eucharist is also about the future. Indeed, the second Advent of Christ was the dominant imagery in the Eucharist of the Church in the early centuries. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:54]. By receiving Holy Communion, we receive a foretaste of eating and drinking at his table in the kingdom [Luke 22:30].

We can see the connection between the Eucharist and priesthood from the Last Supper. At the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples this night, the pure unleavened bread was broken into quarter portions, and one portion, called the afikomen, was hidden away in a cloth and laid aside. No one really knew why, except that it had always been done that way before. It was also called the Bread of Redemption, and it usually went uneaten. Many suspect that it was this portion that Jesus took, broke, and gave to his disciples saying, “Take eat, this is my Body.”

There were four cups of wine during the meal and it was the third cup, traditionally called the Cup of Redemption or the Cup of Blessing which Christ gave to them saying, “Take and drink; this is my Blood of the New Covenant poured out for you.” St Paul noted, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ?” [1 Corinthians 10:16].

And what of the fourth cup of wine in the Passover meal? At that point, Jesus said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” [Matthew 26:29]. The fourth cup was known as the Cup of Consummation—the cup in which God takes us as his people. After sharing the cup of his precious Blood, Jesus left the liturgy unfinished. Or perhaps we should say, the liturgy continued—in the Garden, at the cross, and at the tomb.

Jesus left the fourth cup on the table because there was another new element in the Seder liturgy; there was a new cup from which to drink; for Jesus, it would be the cup of suffering. Isaiah and Jeremiah had prophesied that the Messiah would drink from the cup of God’s wrath. The grapes of wrath would be churned in the wine-press and the cup of divine wrath would be poured out against sin. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I want, but as you want” [Matthew 26:39].

When he was first put on the cross, they offered Jesus wine mingled with myrrh, but he would not take it. “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it new in the kingdom.” He hung there on the tree for about three hours. One of the last things that happened before Jesus died was that he looked down and said, “I thirst.” John’s gospel tells us there was a bowl of sour wine nearby. So they put a sponge on the end of a hyssop branch, (note: the same kind of branch used to mark the door-posts with lamb’s blood at the first Passover) dipped it in the wine and raised it up to his lips. And when he drank it, Jesus said, “It is finished.” And bowed his head and gave up his spirit [see John 19:30].

It is finished. It is consummated. The Mass has ended. The Liturgy is over. He drank the final cup, the Cup of Consummation, and brought us into the kingdom of God, for the gate of heaven’s kingdom stands at the cross on Golgotha.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ? He drank from the cup or wrath that we might drink from the cup of blessing. Jesus gathers with us here tonight; he presides over our Passover meal through his priest at the Altar. He is himself the Passover Lamb slain for the sins of the world. The sacrificial banquet is spread on the table before us. “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us,” St Paul said, “therefore let us keep the feast” [1 Corinthians 5:7]. Jesus bids us to come to his holy Table and eat and drink tonight. All is prepared. “Come ye blessed of my Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” [Matthew 25:34].

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Continuity and Fidelity

This week, in dioceses around the world, clergy will renew their ordination vows at the Bishop's Mass of Chrism. In the diocese of Fort Worth, we did this on Holy Tuesday at St Vincent's Cathedral. You can read Bishop Iker's sermon here. In case you were wondering what those vows are anyway, I have vows belonging to the order of priest below, followed by the all-important preface to the ordination rites. As some of our clergy were ordained before 1979 under the ordinal of a previous Prayer Book, I have included that wording also.

The Examination (1979)
All are seated except the ordinand, who stands before the Bishop. The Bishop addresses the ordinand as follows
My brother, the Church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world. Now you are called to work as pastor, priest, and teacher, together with your bishop and fellow presbyters, and to take your share in the councils of the Church.

As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God's forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God's blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you.

In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ's people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.

My brother, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to this priesthood?
Answer I believe I am so called.

Bishop Do you now in the presence of the Church commit yourself to this trust and responsibility?
Answer I do.

Bishop Will you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?
Answer I will.

Bishop Will you be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?
Answer I will.

Bishop Will you endeavor so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?
Answer I will.

Bishop Will you undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, laboring together with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God?
Answer I will.

Bishop Will you do you best to pattern your life [and that of your family, or household, or community] in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?
Answer I will.

Bishop Will you persevere in prayer, both in public and in private, asking God's grace, both for yourself and for others, offering all your labors to God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit?
Answer I will.

Bishop May the Lord who has given you the will to do these things give you the grace and power to perform them.
Answer Amen.

The Examination (1928)
¶ Then, the People being seated, the Bishop shall say unto those who are to be ordained Priests as followeth.
YE have heard, Brethren, as well in your private examination, as in the exhortation which was now made to you, and in the holy Lessons taken out of the Gospel, and the writings of the Apostles, of what dignity, and of how great importance this Office is, whereunto ye are called. And now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye have in remembrance, into how high a Dignity, and to how weighty an Office and Charge ye are called: that is to say, to be Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.

Have always therefore printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and Congregation whom you must serve, is his Spouse, and his Body. And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any Member thereof, do take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue. Wherefore consider with yourselves the end of the Ministry towards the children of God, towards the Spouse and Body of Christ; and see that ye never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until ye have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life.

Forasmuch then as your Office is both of so great excellency, and of so great difficulty, ye see with how great care and study ye ought to apply yourselves, as well to show yourselves dutiful and thankful unto that Lord, who hath placed you in so high a dignity; as also to beware that neither you yourselves offend, nor be occasion that others offend. Howbeit, ye cannot have a mind and will thereto of yourselves; for that will and ability is given of God alone: therefore ye ought, and have need, to pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit. And seeing that ye cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the Holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same; consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures, and in framing the manners both of yourselves, and of them that specially pertain unto you, according to the rule of the same Scriptures; and for this self-same cause, how ye ought to forsake and set aside, as much as ye may, all worldly cares and studies.

We have good hope that ye have well weighed these things with yourselves, long before this time; and that ye have clearly determined, by God's grace, to give yourselves wholly to this Office, whereunto it hath pleased God to call you: so that, as much as lieth in you, ye will apply yourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way; and that ye will continually pray to God the Father, by the mediation of our only Saviour Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost; that, by daily reading and weighing the Scriptures, ye may wax riper and stronger in your Ministry; and that ye may so endeavour yourselves, from time to time, to sanctify the lives of you and yours, and to fashion them after the Rule and Doctrine of Christ, that ye may be wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow.

And now, that this present Congregation of Christ may also understand your minds and wills in these things, and that this your promise may the more move you to do your duties; ye shall answer plainly to these things, which we, in the Name of God, and of his Church, shall demand of you touching the same.

DO you think in your heart, that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?
Answer. I think it.

Bishop. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge; and to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?
Answer. I am so persuaded, and have so determined, by God’s grace.

Bishop. Will you then give your faithful diligence always so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the Commandments of God; so that you may teach the people committed to your Cure and Charge with all diligence to keep and observe the same?
Answer. I will so do, by the help of the Lord.

Bishop. Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole, within your Cures, as need shall require, and occasion shall be given?
Answer. I will, the Lord being my helper.

Bishop. Will you be diligent in Prayers, and in reading the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh?
Answer. I will endeavour so to do, the Lord being my helper.

Bishop. Will you be diligent to frame and fashion your own selves, and your families, according to the Doctrine of Christ; and to make both yourselves and them, as much as in you lieth, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ?
Answer. I will apply myself thereto, the Lord being my helper.

Bishop. Will you maintain and set forwards, as much as lieth in you, quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian people, and especially among them that are or shall be committed to your charge?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.

Bishop. Will you reverently obey your Bishop, and other chief Ministers, who, according to the Canons of the Church, may have the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions, and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.

¶ Then, all standing, shall the Bishop say,
ALMIGHTY God, who hath given you this will to do all these things; Grant also unto you strength and power to perform the same, that he may accomplish his work which he hath begun in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Preface to the Ordination Rites (1979)
The Holy Scriptures and ancient Christian writers make it clear that from the apostles' time, there have been different ministries within the Church. In particular, since the time of the New Testament, three distinct orders of ordained ministers have been characteristic of Christ's holy Catholic Church. First, there is the order of bishops who carry on the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the Church. Secondly, associated with them are the presbyters, or ordained elders, in subsequent times generally known as priests. Together with the bishops, they take part in the governance of the Church, in the carrying out of its missionary and pastoral work, and in the preaching of the Word of God and administering his holy Sacraments. Thirdly, there are deacons who assist bishops and priests in all of this work. It is also a special responsibility of deacons to minister in Christ's name to the poor, the sick, the suffering, and the helpless.

The persons who are chosen and recognized by the Church as being called by God to the ordained ministry are admitted to these sacred orders by solemn prayer and the laying on of episcopal hands. It has been, and is, the intention and purpose of this Church to maintain and continue these three orders; and for this purpose these services of ordination and consecration are appointed. No persons are allowed to exercise the offices of bishop, priest, or deacon in this Church unless they are so ordained, or have already received such ordination with the laying on of hands by bishops who are themselves duly qualified to confer Holy Orders.

It is also recognized and affirmed that the threefold ministry is not the exclusive property of this portion of Christ's Catholic Church, but is a gift from God for the nurture of his people and the proclamation of his Gospel everywhere. Accordingly, the manner of ordaining in this Church is to be such as has been, and is, most generally recognized by Christian people as suitable for the conferring of the sacred orders of bishops, priest, and deacon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Barabbas: the Jesus of Liberation Theology?

It occurred to me the other day, comparing Jesus bar-Abbas and Jesus bar-Joseph that Barabbas is far more akin to the Jesus of Liberation Theology than is the historical Jesus of Nazareth. After all, Jesus Barabbas was a man of the common people, popular with the crowds. He understood their situation and the reality of their oppression. He exercised a preferrential option for the poor and oppressed by getting involved in a revolt against Rome. He sought to change corrupt systems by taking prophetic action against sinful institutions. He was even willing to put his life on the line for the people and the cause he believed in.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Holy Xenu, Batman!

I came across this internet-release film on the Church of Scientology called The Bridge. It has an interesting history and the cult's hierarchy was not happy. It is a kind of fictional expose story, from former Scientologists. Holy Xenu, Batman!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just a thought . . .

If you are (literally) "one in a million," you may not be as unique as you thought. After all, it means that there are about 6,700 of you around the world.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pride goeth before . . .

Last night at our Canterbury college ministry, we concluded a Lenten study of the seven deadly sins. Our last item on the menu was the sin of pride--vanity, arrogance, self-love. Of course, it could not be more relevant. I could hardly get past the irony of this campaign ad, given New York Governor Spitzer's recent downfall.

Proverbs 16:18
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Monday, March 10, 2008

A beatiful Vatican slide show

This is one of the best slide shows I have seen of the Vatican. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Pray for the sisters of St Mary's, Mzuzu

From our companion diocese of Northern Malawi, Father Fanuel Magangani wrote with distressing news. Last night, over a dozen thieves broke into St Mary's Convent in Luwinga, Mzuzu. They stole several items including money from the convent that was to be given today to contractors to build a new guest house. Even more distressing, they went into the cells, demanding money from the sisters (thinking that they would have more in their private rooms). Thankfully no sister was beaten or injured. Fr Fanuel, the chaplain asks for prayers of thanksgiving for their safety and intercession for the strengthening of their hope and faith during this difficult time.

Now wouldn't that be something?

I don't keep up with politics like I used to, but I still love watching the pundits when I get the chance. With John McCain clinching the Republican nomination last night, one panel discussion moved to the topic of speculation on his choices for a Vice-Presidential running mate.

The panelists seem to come back to the idea that the best running mate would be a governor--someone with executive experience. Then the thought came to me--how far fetched in one way, yet how fitting in another. What about "McCain/Bush in 2008." I'm not talking about either of the presidents with that name. I'm talking about Jeb Bush.

Bush is a popular young two-term former Governor of Florida (the first Republican to be re-elected to that post), and a Roman Catholic who has shown himself to be popular with Cuban, Hispanic, and Jewish voters. I'm still not sure if that would be a good choice or not, but it would generate more interest than any other I can think of (except perhaps for Ron Paul, but I don't see that hawk and dove combination any time soon).

Then that got me thinking on the potential choice for the Democrats. Since Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are still running so close, it's not really time to consider that yet. It seems to me that for either of them, the needs for a running mate would be similar. Like McCain, both are senators, and so they could also use someone like a governor--someone with executive experience, with connections, But unlike McCain, both Clinton and Obama are still new to Washington. Clinton began her second term in 2007 and Obama began his first term in 2005.

Each could use a running mate with a bit more experience to draw from--someone who has been there and done that and has the talent and ability to get things done. And as this will surely be another close and hard-fought presidential race, having a good charismatic campaigner would be a tremendous benefit and could even make the difference. And given that this nomination may go down to the wire and even be decided at the convention, you would want a choice that would wow the Democrats, bring them together, and build enthusiasm for the general election.

You may be ahead of me by this point. Wouldn't a logical and helpful choice for a Vice-Presidential running mate be none other than . . . Bill Clinton?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lessons in rhetoric

A rhetorical question is a question which needs no answer. A rhetorical answer (like this one) is an answer which needs no question.