returning thanks for an upcoming ordination...

Today has become a "down" day away from public ministry due to some kind of stomach
"thing." The good news about this type of illness is that it gives me time to read, think, pray and write - and today I have been working on the ordination sermon for Robert Hyde set for June 5, 2016 in our Sanctuary.  It has been one of the joys of these later days of ministry to have journeyed with Robert through his discernment. To be sure, among other things, this has been a way for me to "pay forward" my debt of gratitude to the Reverends Sam Fogal, Ray Swartzback and Luther Pierce. In other way, it is also a chance to celebrate the mysterious love of God as experienced and expressed in the life of this talented and faithful young man.

A few weeks ago, Robert and I met for one of our many lunch conversations at Dottie's Coffee Lounge on North Street. We started hanging out there just to get to know one another about eight years ago. Over time, we've met to talk about wedding plans, short term vocational goals, theology, books, the politics of wider church meetings and eventually seminary. From time to time after seminary began, we would visit together to stay up-to-date, too. And I had the privilege of joining Robert's faculty advisor, the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Peace, for the annual close of seminary faculty evaluation. Having written a variety of letters of recommendation for him over the years - and watching him grow in wisdom, humility and gravitas as a person of faith, husband and father - I was truly honored when he asked me to preach this ordination service.

We've selected St. John's take on the woman who anoints Jesus with costly, perfumed oil both as an act of devotion as well as a prefigurative allusion to his burial after the Cross.  We both cherish this story - it is included in all four gospels - but probably for different reasons. I see it as one that speaks to Robert's life of faith - this is the descriptive connection to the Scripture - but it also serves as a tender corrective and prophetic reminder to the wider Church about our raison d'etre - making this an equally compelling prescriptive pericope for this ordination.

Now the Passover was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ By now some of the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him. Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ When the great crowds learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So some of the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many were now trusting the way of Jesus. The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!

So far I have six pages of exegetical and anecdotal notes, so it is time for a break (after six hours) to let the deeper truths settle in and then rise to the surface.


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