You know there is such perfect economy of form and function in the shape of the cross. The upward reaching spine lifts our eyes to the heavens, to God, to the best that we can be and then reminds us that we too are rooted on the ground, feet on the earth, dust from dust. The cross member then takes our eyes out to the world around us , making us see how the ways of the world are harming God’s holy people and we wonder what we could be doing about that. We are all ambassadors of Christ, his hands and feet in a hurting world.
And so this Cross, those we carry and those on the steeple, can lead us out into the world and at the same time orient us home to the church which nurtures us. Deacons see the injustices around us, just as you do. However we stand in the doorway of the church, see what is going on in the world and turn around to those inside and ask what will we do. My job is to help you engage in that work, probe the question, seeking a way to right some wrongs.
The Book of Common Prayer offers a very clear description of the ministry of the Deacon. From Page 855 of the BCP:
The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.
In my vows at ordination I promised that in my ministry of servant-hood I would:
In the name of Jesus Christ, … to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.… to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model my life upon them. … to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship…. to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. …At all times, my life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.
Now if that charge doesn’t keep you up at night, I do not know what it would take. I was terrified and couldn’t figure out how to implement the things I promised Bishop Sisk I would aspire to in May of 2009. This is tough stuff and a life’s work in itself. It was clear to me that I needed some foot-soldiers in my army who could follow the cross who would look up and down and then around them to see what could be done in Christ’s name.
When I arrived on your doorstep, I was unsure of what to do next. I need not have worried, you had it all figured out for me. Fr Tom was wise enough to have had Deacon Robin pave the way as to what ministry of service could look like. Her model of servant-hood served me very well.
You, the wonderful parish of St John’s, made the task easy. You taught me how to develop my ministry, find my inner servant and live out my vows. I am grateful for all you have helped me to learn and experience as a Rookie Deacon. I am not done learning and growing in knowledge, but I am richer and wiserfor my time spent with you.
Many of us, as Christians, all make mental notes of perceived injustices and remark inwardly to ourselves what steps we might take to address them. Alice’s clothing drive for the homeless folks in Newburgh is an example of that. The Shepherds among you who make food for those who are sick at home, drive folks to appointments, bring in donations for the food pantries, you are all doing your part to change the world around you. Sacrifices of time and talent changing the way the world is, into what it should be.
I found you to be such willing accomplices in my efforts. From the first few steps we took ministering to the women at Bedford, all those puzzles, all those toiletries, the food packages. The generosity and sense of eagerness to participate was fervent and real. It seemed to me that you could not be given enough choices, that your willingness to be part of the battle was terrific. Do not let go of that desire to serve.
We are reminded in the letter to Timothy
Those who have served well, gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
It is not easy to make transitions away from something to another challenge. In your head you can make all the rationalizations about growth and sense and wisdom, but then why does my heart hurt? Why do I feel such sadness?
Like all growth experiences, we have to step away from the nurturing nest and fly solo, test out what we have learned from the wisdom of others. That bittersweet moment of freedom and loss at the same time. What to take away with me?
In the end it is about love or in Greek Caritas. Charity of heart, kindness of being, those qualities which the world suppresses. But here in this space we can allow them to flourish and grow to new heights. Follow the cross up into the heavens and reach out to those around with healing hands and hearts. You, as a community of believers and doers of the work, are blazing with caritas. Anyone would be blessed to be among you. Thank you for making room for me at your table of love.