As I read the bible passages for today, I am reminded of my recent Profession and Ordination to the Diaconate in the Reformed Catholic Church. Ephesians 4:1-16 states:
“ I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean, but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
As I took my vows to become Deacon Reverend Sister, I flashed back to a past which was dominated by a sense of loss, or misdirection. Like most youth, I searched for meaning in my life, experimenting with various doctrines and beliefs. But yet, each left me feeling empty and alone. The love I sought, from others, and things, was always an illusive dream. It was only after I stopped running, and listened to a voice, well rather a shout, that I realized what I wanted, was in front of me all along. Like a rebellious teenager, I denied my fallibilities, thinking I knew all the answers. I knew nothing, and no doctrine, or other religion, were what I really needed. By listening to God’s still voice, I went from a child “tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming” to a daughter of Christ, and now a Deacon. He knew all along what I was meant to be, it just took me a while to listen to my loving Father.
As this passage states, there really is only “one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” He is a God of love, and seeks to use us, His children, to build up that which unites us all in faith and grace. Here we are reminded that we all are called to serve God, to receive His gifts of grace and peace, and to join together to “for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” This was made very clear to me a couple weeks ago , when I was blessed to join my fellow clergy in the Dedication of our national church, and the appointment of a newMetropolitan Archbishop to serve as its leader. As we all joined our hearts, minds, and prayers to “build up the body of Christ”, the church, we each had a role to play. Whether evangelist, prophets, apostle, pastor, deacon, teacher, or parishioner, uniting in faith as we are tasked to do, allowed us to bring in to being what was surely only a dream not too long ago. With Christ providing us strength, we were “joined and knit together by every ligament”, working properly to promote the body’s (the National Church) growth in building itself up in love.
Our next reading, from Psalm 51:1-12, stands as a reminder that though born as a sinner, now by God’s grace and love, am I able to serve Him in my new role as Deacon in the church. It states:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.”
By beseeching God to “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”, we are acknowledging that no one is perfect, that despite what we have done in the past, God does forgive us. He will clean us, wash us, and make us, as if “whiter than snow”. That by simply asking, He stands ready to teach us what we must learn to follow and praise Him, and then to carry this knowledge, this “wisdom in our secret heart”, with us out in to the world, to teach others. As clergy, this is key to following God’s commandments, to use the Holy Spirit, our willing spirit, to take the “joy of God’s salvation”, spreading His message in our ministry. Sometimes even us as clergy forget we were once sinners, born guilty of our transgressions, and through faith, made clean of heart. And like children at times, we make mistakes, we sin, we misstep, lose our way, but this passage reminds us that God forgave us once, cleaned us of our iniquity. And yes, He will do it again, because like a loving father, he wants the best for his children. All we have to do is ask, and it shall be granted.