20220619 Sermon for Proper 7

20220619 Sermon for Proper 7

It was my joy and pleasure yesterday to bear witness to Jill’s ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons. Now, when you have more than one Deacon in a given location, it’s called a "Disturbance of Deacons", and since we have such a disturbance among us today, Jill and I thought we would try to explain what it is that Deacons do, and to compare our somewhat different paths to ordained life.

First, all of us as baptized Christians have a call to the servanthood of Christ. That itself, for everyone, is a diaconal role we all play when we answer that call. A few of us will become ordained deacons, which means that we have an "ordered relationship" with a Bishop. That is NOT to say that lay people have a "disordered" relationship with a Bishop (a few may!), but laypeople retain an essentially volunteer relationship with the church. These relationships, whether ordered or voluntary, are part of the means through which the Holy Spirit does her work in the world. One is NOT better than the other; it is merely that Spirit can do some things through the ordered relationship , and other things through a more voluntary relationship.

Next, all priests and bishops are ordained as Deacons first, and later as priests. Christians have been doing it this way for almost 1500 years, so its a long-established church tradition. So, Shariya is also a Deacon, as are both our Bishops, Ian and Laura. Jill is on this historic track, and in just a few months, we’ll celebrate her priestly ordination. Each order, Deacon and Priest, has its own gifts and charisms, and the wisdom and experience of the church is that ordained life should begin with the diaconal gifts first for those whose call is to become a priest.

A few of us who are ordained as Deacons however, elect not to become priests. Our call is to dive deep into what it is to BE a deacon, and that is the path I am on. I’m still in the same Order as Jill and Shariya, but my work is really to come to a deep understanding of the servanthood of Christ, and to help YOU understand that as part of YOUR call as well. There are about 25 others in our Diocese who are on this vocational path. Historically, the early church seemed to have seen the diaconate this way. Vatican II in the early 1960s restored this option for the Roman Catholic Church, and the Episcopal Church followed suit shortly afterward. All of this was a response to World War II, where many in the church saw one of the root causes of the war to be a failure of the church to live into the servanthood of Christ because it lacked people who could lead the church into this understanding. Being a vocational Deacon, for me then, is an act of war resistance.

Being a Deacon means many things, but chief among them are these three:
  • First, proclaiming the gospel to the world… not just reading it, but proclaiming it such that it enters the world with the force, power, and strength of the Holy Spirit… the power to change hearts and minds.
  • Second, being a servant-leader. This means something more like seed-scattering or being a mid-wife than being a great captain of industry or of the Navy. Having lived into both Navy leadership and servant leadership, I can assure you that they are very different ways of leading. In the name of Jesus Christ, Deacons are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely… so we exercise that leadership with a "preferential option for the poor" that reflects God’s own preferential option for the poor.
  • Third, a deacon helps the Church understand the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. For vocational Deacons then, we work in the world as a way to help the church with that understanding. And the voice we use to help the church with that understand is sometimes prophetic and maybe disturbing, which is why groups of deacons are known as a "disturbance of Deacons"!

God willing, Jill will go on the become a priest, where she will pick up new gifts and charisms: to bless, to absolve sins, to make Eucharist, and most importantly, to be an angled mirror to her people; reflecting God’s wise and wonderful stewardship into the world, and reflecting back to God the praises and thanksgiving of all of creation. My prayer for Jill is she will remember always in her priestly work, that she also has the heart of a Deacon; to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ into the world with heartbreaking power, to help her people live into the servanthood of Christ as an act of war resistance and war prevention, and to speak to the church with a prophetic voice that brings justice rolling down like a river. May God make it so!