Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Priesthood


As it is, I am an ordained deacon. As of Saturday afternoon, June 19th, I will be an ordained priest. The wonderful people in my parish ask me if I am excited, or if I am looking forward to it. Definitely yes, and yes. But that is mixed up with a whole cocktail of other emotions as well.

This time last year when I was ordained as a deacon, I couldn't imagine being ordained priest. Gradually as the year has progressed, with experiences gained and much prayer and seeking after God, my imagination has been stretched. The composition of my being seems increasingly perfused with 'priestly' qualities. And the formal ordination service marks the point at which I will be able, with authority given by God and by the Church, to use those qualities in profound ways to serve God and to serve people.

Not too many years ago, I was fairly anti-priestly-authority, fairly anti-church-heirarchy and institutionalism. I still am, on many levels. I've always believed in the 'priesthod of all believers' (1 Peter 2:9). I long for the 'priesthood of all believers' to be full-on enabled and released into ministry. I wonder if the ordained priesthood as a stipendiary office would even be necessary if the priesthood of all believers were fully engaged in the world.

What does it mean to be a priest in Christ's church, when Christ himself is our High Priest (Hebrews 5)? In the Old Testament, a priest was a mediator between God and his people. There was a curtain in the Temple through which only the priest could pass to access God in the holy of holies, where the Ark of the Covenant rested. When Jesus was crucified, the temple curtain was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). Jesus opened up the way to God for us all, by his death on the cross. No longer is any earthly mediator required for any of us to have access to God; our heavenly mediator is Christ, and we ourselves live in Christ through his Spirit.

This is why I've never really liked the title priest to describe what we do today, because it can confuse the role that priests should fulfil in these post-resurrection days. But this is what they are called in many denominations, and so long as the role is clear and not abused (which sadly, it often is), then I can just manage to get my head around it. For me, being ordained as a priest will be a commissioning, a releasing, to be and to do what God has put me on this earth to be and to do. I just pray I will be faithful to this.

So the role is about both being and doing. But if there's no longer any need for the Old Testament priestly function, what do priests today do? I came across this incisive poem about being a priest, on the blog of an ordinand who seems also to wrestle a lot with the notion of priesthood and ordination. I'm so grateful we have a God who doesn't mind our wrestling with him and with the mysteries of his purposes (I've always loved Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with God).

Yes, I am very excited about Saturday, and about Sunday, when I will preside for the first time at Holy Communion, and be able to say the Absolution and the Blessing. It is a great privilege to be able to do this kind of work full-time. Please pray for me and for all those who are called to ordained ministry of whatever form. I pray that in our ministry, the name of Christ will be honoured above all else; unto him be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.

6 comments:

  1. will indeed keep you in my thoughts and prayers - a friend of mine has just received word that she has been accepted for ordination training this September - I am so thrilled and excited for her and for you. lots of love, Judith

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  2. Thank you, Judith. Congrats to your friend, as well.

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  3. I note that you say in your blurb that 'This is a journal/blog for the duration of my three-year curacy' so is this particular blog coming to and end? or will you just re-name yourself?

    take care, off now to do my Chaplaincy bit at The Police HQ

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  4. This blog won't end just yet - I still have two years of curacy to serve.

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  5. Wow - thank you - beautifully expressed and yes, i will pray. X

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