United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough

General

03.11.2016

CITI’s New Ordinands Commissioned as Student Readers

Six ordinands at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute were commissioned as student Readers by Archbishop Michael Jackson yesterday evening (Wednesday November 2). Jonathan Brown (Down & Dromore), Emma Carson (Down & Dromore), Jonathan Cockerill (Connor), Graham Jones (Dublin & Glendalough) and Karen Salmon (Down & Dromore) were all licensed as Readers during the Community Eucharist in the institute. They were presented for licensing by the Director of the institute, Canon Dr Maurice Elliott and the Lecture in Missiology, the Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey, who coordinates student placements.

Student Readers
Student Readers

In his sermon the Archbishop spoke about the ministry to which the students would be ordained. He said that the Gospel reading from Luke 14 suggested that weighing up the possible outcomes of a life–choice was liberating. “The top and the bottom of these parables is the following: you and I must make up our minds about the most secure of securities as we know them: materialism. Giving up things that delight us is a requirement of discipleship, so it is bound to be a requirement of the ordained ministry that follows from discipleship. Few of us are ready; fewer of us are willing to live immaterial lives. It is a change of spiritual attitude to which we are invited today and its purpose is to lighten our load and to equip us to be more spiritually nimble and more spiritually alert in our personal discipleship and in our ministry for and with other people,” he stated.

The idea of earthly obedience, as expressed in Philippians (from which the first reading was taken) was unpalatable to most, he said. There was difficulty distancing the contemporary self from inherited faithfulness, the Archbishop suggested. “All seems fine so long as we are caught up in doing things, in positive activism; but when we are asked to give an account of why we do what we believe, we’d be happier just to keep talking about what we do or even doing it and not having to talk about it at all. We, who are called to serve, are called to proclaim and to live resurrection in ourselves, in our communities, in our parishes and for others. Our ministry is not for ‘us’ but for ‘them’ once we move from personal and individual discipleship to public and representational ordained ministry. It is not we who are acclaimed but Jesus Christ as Lord (Philippians 2:11),” he said.

The Archbishop went on to talk about the public suffering which is presented every time we switch on the television or surf the news on our mobile phones. He suggested there was now an “acceptable level of suffering”.

“The great hole in our conscience is Aleppo and Damascus; it has been Gaza; it has been Mostar; it has been Kigali; it has been Auschwitz. In all of these situations and circumstances – because human beings suffer by the premeditation of other human beings – everyone is dehumanized and nobody does anything about it while it is happening. And still God restores. This is the glory of grace and the miracle of redemption. It is without doubt small–scale but it is not insignificant. It is without doubt hard to find and hard to grasp in a world where we have let politics and media erode straightforward humanity and dignity. The Media thirst for dualism and long to feed a clash of civilizations and give every sign of wishing to herald in the triumph of evil over good. This is the world into which you will be ordained: the world of Trump (whether he is elected to the White House or not) and the world of ISIL. Either nothing has prepared us for this or we have wilfully or fearfully turned our face away from what was right in front of us. The Cross is the touchstone of suffering, of redemption, of resurrection and of community. The Cross is the rallying point of violence, of political annihilation, of politics abused and of hope in a future within God. The Cross is the locus of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man,” he said.

[The full text of the Archbishop’s sermon is reproduced below]

Photo caption: The Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey, Canon Dr Patrick Comerford, Jonathan Brown (Down&Dromore), Jonathan Cockerill (Connor), Karen Salmon (Down&Dromore), Graham Jones (Dublin&Glendalough), Emma Carson (Down&Dromore), Paul Gibson (Connor), Archbishop Michael Jackson, Canon Dr Maurice Elliott.

Commissioning of Student Readers, Church of Ireland Theological Institute

Readings: Philippians 2:12–18; psalm 27:1–5; St Luke 14: 25–33

Philippians 2.12: So you too, my friends, must be obedient, as always …

Sermon preached by the archbishop of Dublin

 

CONTEXT

Often we who are ordained and we who aspire to be ordained over–calculate in terms of our own idealism. We tell ourselves that we can cope; that sacrifice is what it is about; and that in any case it is a ‘calling;’ and, again, that we can, of course, cope. We need always to be careful about something that does not feature very much in this thought–pattern and in this flawed logic of self–giving; and that is self–care and self–limitation. And by and large it is clericalism that militates against both, whether it be in its High Church form, its Low Church form, some form in–between or none of these forms.

WEARINESS AS WORTHINESS

The whole culture of which we are part pushes us to the limit and expects us to survive on the adrenalin of weariness as worthiness. Very quickly the unfocused neediness of others makes us slaves of our own neediness to be needed. It is in no way the fault of others that their need is unfocused; but our role is to help with focus, to centre this need on the healing presence of Jesus Christ in their lives and in the lives of others associated with them. Such neediness on our part, however, is unhealthy, unwholesome and unhelpful. Today’s Gospel Reading would beg to differ from this setting aside of self–care and something else that might sound harsh: calculated realism about ourselves, as a Gospel–value. Again we are conditioned not to calculate, particularly about ourselves. St Luke 14 speaks of calculation as a fresh expression of: realism and not as a fresh expression of its opposite: rejection of anything or of anyone. The truth, as often in Holy Scripture, is expressed in parable and can easily be dismissed as ‘mere storytelling’. But we are reminded here time and again that weighing up and weighing down the possible outcomes is liberating as we make a life–choice. The examples are of their time; someone building a tower; a king going to battle. But we are faced with contemporary expressions of this in: NAMA and abject financial greed North and South; Trump and Clinton with all of their pulsating and public limitations and quest for power and gracelessness.

Everything changes and little changes at the same time. The top and the bottom of these parables is the following: you and I must make up our minds about the most secure of securities as we know them: materialism. Giving up things that delight us is a requirement of discipleship, so it is bound to be a requirement of the ordained ministry that follows from discipleship. Few of us are ready; fewer of us are willing to live immaterial lives. It is a change of spiritual attitude to which we are invited today and its purpose is to lighten our load and to equip us to be more spiritually nimble and more spiritually alert in our personal discipleship and in our ministry for and with other people.

KENOSIS

It is Scripturally impossible to read Philippians 2:12–18 without reading Philippians 2:5–11 as well. And it is liturgically impossible as an Anglican to read the latter without moving imaginatively and faithfully to Palm Sunday where this passage (Philippians 2:5–11) forms The Epistle. The exhortation in the earlier part of the chapter is to an openness that is transformative. It is indeed sacrificial, it describes the mind–set of Christ Jesus, both divine and human, and it has to do with the invitation to us to offer what we can only call an eschatological obedience. Earthly obedience is unpalatable to most of us; defiance often suits our temperament more instinctively, particularly in Ireland. But we are called to the gracious transformation that takes the fragile body of the Child of Bethlehem and makes this body, by Godly intervention and Godly disclosure, the glorious body of the Risen Christ through death and resurrection. This very idea is a scandal to contemporary Liberalism and a scientific embarrassment to many churchgoers. And herein surely lies the problem: a distancing of contemporary self from inherited faithfulness. In many parishes the length and the breadth of the country the chasm is well established and has been widening for years. You are not ordained to a fantasy world.

All seems fine so long as we are caught up in doing things, in positive activism; but when we are asked to give an account of why we do what we believe, we’d be happier just to keep talking about what we do or even doing it and not having to talk about it at all. We, who are called to serve, are called to proclaim and to live resurrection in ourselves, in our communities, in our parishes and for others. Our ministry is not for ‘us’ but for ‘them’ once we move from personal and individual discipleship to public and representational ordained ministry. It is not we who are acclaimed but Jesus Christ as Lord (Philippians 2:11). Moving into this evening’s Reading more specifically, we are told that obedience is required of us; and in the same breath it is we who are invited and asked to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. God works in you and in me; God inspires our decision and our action (the will and the deed, verse 13) to a purpose that lies beyond the limitations of our own vision. It is not that we are particularly defective; it simply is that we are not God and therefore compliance and obedience contain the seeds of our delight and our fulfilment and, if things go well, our liberation from materialism and from self. 

THE CROSS

We live in a world and we observe a world where public suffering is the order of the day. It is presented to us every time we switch on our televisions and every time we surf for news on our mobile phones. Some of it is martyrdom. In Northern Ireland people at one stage spoke of an acceptable level of violence; we are now, at least by implication, speaking of an acceptable level of suffering. The great hole in our conscience is Aleppo and Damascus; it has been Gaza; it has been Mostar; it has been Kigali; it has been Auschwitz. In all of these situations and circumstances – because human beings suffer by the premeditation of other human beings  – everyone is dehumanized and nobody does anything about it while it is happening. And still God restores. This is the glory of grace and the miracle of redemption. It is without doubt small–scale but it is not insignificant. It is without doubt hard to find and hard to grasp in a world where we have let politics and media erode straightforward humanity and dignity. The Media thirst for dualism and long to feed a clash of civilizations and give every sign of wishing to herald in the triumph of evil over good. This is the world into which you will be ordained: the world of Trump (whether he is elected to the White House or not) and the world of ISIL. Either nothing has prepared us for this or we have wilfully or fearfully turned our face away from what was right in front of us. The Cross is the touchstone of suffering, of redemption, of resurrection and of community. The Cross is the rallying point of violence, of political annihilation, of politics abused and of hope in a future within God. The Cross is the locus of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man.

THE OPPORTUNITIES

I take us back to the two fleeting parables in St Luke 14: the bankrupt builder and the pragmatic warrior–king. Too often we see parables as being of the: It will be alright on the night variety … Coming towards Advent we find ourselves facing a range of fascinating and more disturbing parables, lower life characters and worldly sharks; scenarios where things take a darker twist and turn and Jesus Christ is there too. This is good for us if we are to lift ‘our ministry’ out of cotton wool and to engage in the hand–to–hand combat which is pastoral and public theology. Take another example: The Unjust Steward; but he is also The Quick–witted Survivor. And The Master says to him, in more polite Biblical words than this of course: Good on you, you thought on your feet! We are not called or commissioned to a ministry of passivity where we bury our talent. We are not called or commissioned to a ministry of commentating where we watch other people engage with discipleship and give them Marks for Effort. We are not called or commissioned to a ministry of infotainment where God is Blog. We are called and commissioned to The Cross. May God bless you all in your discipleship.

 

St Luke 14.27: No one who does not carry his cross and come with me can be a disciple of mine.