Archive for Ministry

“Samuel D. Ferguson, George F. Bragg, and W.E.B. DuBois” (August 2, 2017: Wednesday after Pentecost VIII–Proper 12A)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2017 by montgomerybrandt

The following sermon was preached at the weekly Healing Eucharist of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Lafayette, Louisiana on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 6:00pm.

Gospel: Luke 18.1-8

“And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.”—Luke 18.7-8[1]

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses[2] puts forth this week three significant figures, all racial minorities, from our Church’s past: Samuel David Ferguson, George Freeman Bragg, Jr., and William Edward Burghardt DuBois. Considering all three of these individuals’ importance in the history of both our Church and the world, I have elected to briefly highlight all of them in a combined commemoration. I am glad that we are tonight remembering these individuals, for their lives and work exemplify God’s command “to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”[3]

Samuel David Ferguson, Missionary Bishop for West Africa (1842-1916)

Samuel David Ferguson was the Fourth Bishop of Cape Palmas (later the Missionary District of Liberia) from June 24, 1885 until his death on August 2, 1916. In addition to being Liberia’s first black bishop, Ferguson was The Episcopal Church’s first bishop of color to be afforded full seat and voice in the House of Bishops, a privilege that the Church’s very first (and, until Ferguson, only) black bishop, First Bishop of Haiti James Theodore Holly, had been denied.

In conjunction with his episcopal ministry, Ferguson’s primary emphasis was in education. He helped start several schools throughout Liberia, the most notable being Cuttington College (now University), which today continues as Liberia’s oldest private, coeducational four-year degree-granting institution.

In the face of much discrimination from the Church’s racial majority, Ferguson modeled dignity and tenacity as one of equal stature, advancing his goal of establishing a strong spiritual and educational foundation for the transformation of Liberia’s people.

George Freeman Bragg, Jr., Priest (1863-1940)

Born to slaves of a North Carolina Episcopal family in 1863, George Freeman Bragg, Jr. was The Episcopal Church’s first major black historian. His books A History of the Afro-American Group of The Episcopal Church and Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were seminal in the preservation of the early history of the black Episcopal presence.

In addition to serving for 35 years as secretary of the Conference of Church Workers Among the Colored People (now the Union of Black Episcopalians), from 1891 until his death in 1940 (a 49-year tenure that included the last year of the 1789, all those of the 1892, and the first 12 years of the 1928 Prayer Books), Bragg was the rector of Saint James Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, The Episcopal Church’s oldest black Episcopal parish south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Throughout his 53 years of ordained ministry, Bragg “fathered” in the ministry over twenty priestly vocations.

Bragg is remembered as a tireless advocate for black Episcopalians’ inclusion in The Episcopal Church’s larger life, challenging their exclusion from its full mission and ministry.

William Edward Burghardt DuBois, Sociologist (1868-1963)

The most well-known of tonight’s commemorations, William Edward Burghardt DuBois was one of the most powerful advocates for black civil rights during the first half of the 20th century. Born into a Congregationalist family in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868, DuBois became an Episcopalian in his adult life, remembering fondly memories of attending the Episcopal Church with his grandparents as a young boy.

His seminal book The Souls of Black Folk (1903) was the first significant challenge to the long-held perception that blacks were spiritually and morally inferior beings and became an authoritative text on black American identity. DuBois was a founder of the “Niagara Movement,” a movement committed to civil justice and opposing discrimination, from which was established the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

DuBois was a Christian who believed in his faith being the vehicle through which justice and peace represented the highest ethical standards for humanity. He died on the eve of the March on Washington on August 27, 1963.

Three Saints and the Word

Earlier, we heard Jesus telling His disciples the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In this parable, a judge, “who neither feared God nor cared what people thought,” is being constantly hounded by a widow for “justice against my adversary” and refuses to relent until she is granted her request. Becoming increasingly irritated by the widow, the judge grants her justice just to shut her up, “that she won’t eventually come and attack me!” Jesus says

“Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

In their own times, Ferguson, Bragg, and DuBois all faced circumstances similar to that of the Persistent Widow. With their ministries altogether spanning from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, times of blatant racial oppression, Ferguson, Bragg, and DuBois’s struggle, reminiscent of Paul’s words from Ephesians, was “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world”[4] who deemed them and the people of their race undeserving of full and equal rights within both the Church and their local contexts.

But, like the Persistent Widow, they all stood their ground. They stood firm “with the belt of truth buckled around [their] waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with…feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.”[5] And because of their persistence and faith in a God in whose eyes they were always equal, the people of their race now experience the progressive fruits of their labors.

What Ferguson, Bragg, and DuBois remind all of us, people of all races, of in this current age is the reality that in God’s Kingdom, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[6] All of us are called to be like the Persistent Widow, demanding justice for all of God’s people against any adversary, not relenting until “justice roll[s] on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”[7] We have come a long way, yet we still have a long way to go.

For us to get to that place to where we all should be, we should all actively live that which we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

The question Jesus asked the disciples, He also asks us: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” May the examples of Samuel David Ferguson, George Freeman Bragg, Jr., and W.E.B. DuBois inspire us to say, “Yes!”

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®

[2] An optional calendar of commemorations authorized by The Episcopal Church’s 2015 General Convention for devotional and/or catechetical use.

[3] Micah 6.8

[4] Ephesians 6.12

[5] Ephesians 6.14-15a

[6] Galatians 3.28

[7] Amos 5.24

“Anamnesis” (April 13, 2017: Maundy Thursday)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2017 by montgomerybrandt

The following sermon was preached on April 13, 2017, being Maundy Thursday, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Readings: Exodus 12.1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116.1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; John 13.1-17, 31b-35 

Collect: Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before He suffered, instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”–1 Corinthians 11.26[1]

“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”—John 13.15

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 I was talking with a colleague at the school earlier this week, during which the subject of Holy Week came up, with me noting how busy a time it is for us clergy types. In response, my colleague, somewhat kidding, but also serious, asked, “Why do we have to go through all that? We already know how it ends. Isn’t that enough?”

Yes, we already do know the end. And while we are thankful for that end, in recalling the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday year after year, we do that which the Lord tonight commands: “Do this in memory of Me.” Enacting those events from long, long ago reminds us of “the love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”[2]

Three crucial events occurred on this night. The first was Jesus’ institution of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the making present of His unique sacrifice in the Church’s liturgy.[3] It is the Church’s principal act of worship, through which, as Saint Paul tonight proclaims, in our partaking of the Bread and drinking the Cup, we proclaim Jesus’ death until His Second Coming.

Next (and what immediately follows in tonight’s liturgy), Jesus “began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with a towel.” In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus, God in human flesh, humbled Himself and became like a slave, displaying pure humility and service. It was an illusion to the sacrificial death He would soon endure on the cross. In Jesus’ washing of feet is found the summary of the Christian duty

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall [also] love your neighbor as yourself.[4]

And lastly, represented in the Stripping of the Altar after Communion, was Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus “was in such agony and He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.”[5] It is in His agony that we see Jesus at His most human. Make no doubt about it: Jesus was really afraid; He knew what was coming. He could have commanded the entire Heavenly company to whisk Him away to safety. Instead, Jesus chose His Father’s will: “Not my will but Yours be done.”[6] He knew that He had a purpose to fulfill, to be the “expiation for our sins…for those of the whole world.”[7]

But, again, why do we have to go through all this? The answer comes from one word—anamnesis. Meaning “reminiscence,” anamnesis is a word that originates from Plato’s philosophical thought, describing the remembrance of things from a supposed previous existence.[8] In Christian theology, it refers to the memorial character of the Eucharist, as well as the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. It is through anamnesis that we enter fully into the Paschal Mystery, the ceremonies of the liturgy actively bringing into our time elements of those things done in the past.[9]

Anamnesis is the word that is used in the Greek text of Jesus’ commandment, “Do this in memory of Me.” Through His mandate, Jesus is saying to us, “Do these things to make Me present.” His mandate speaks to His relational nature, how He yearns to gather His people together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.[10] That’s the heart of what Jesus commands. We are to go through these things in that Jesus may dwell in us and we in Him.

Tonight’s ceremonies render all human concepts of time irrelevant. We are, in a mysterious way, experiencing these ceremonies as if they are actually happening in real time. Through anamnesis, we become fully present with Christ in these events. We see first-hand how “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”[11]

Of the Eucharist, Jesus says

“This is My body that is for you. This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this…in remembrance of Me.

“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me.”[12]

In the Eucharistic Prayer, we ask God

“To send Your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and His Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to Your Son in His sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through Him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”[13]

All of this connects us in real time to Christ. Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist connects us all, one with another, both with those in the here and now and from ages past.

In the Washing of Feet, we see the unconditional love of the One who stooped down to do an act that not even the lowliest Jewish servant performed. Jesus did this because He loves us. Jesus said

Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.[14]

In return, “whoever claims to abide in Him ought to live [just] as He lived.”[15] Jesus says to us tonight, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” This is what Jesus calls us to do for one another.

We have an obligation to obey Jesus’ commandment. This obligation comes from the fact that “the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.”[16] It brings to light the reality that in Christ, all of us, regardless of any form of difference, are no better than anybody else. It forms our hearts in being more gentle, generous, truthful, and kind towards one another. And whenever we fail in doing what Jesus commands, because of what happens at the end, there will be no need to fear. Because of grace, we can repent, learn from our mistake, and be given another chance. “If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”[17]

 So, let us “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God.”[18] In the Church’s liturgy, may we make Jesus present, right here, right now. Let us do what Jesus commands: “Do this in memory of Me.”

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New American Bible (Revised Edition), copyright © 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers.

[2] 1 John 3.1

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church (Doubleday, 1994), ¶1362.

[4] Matthew 22.37, 39

[5] Luke 22.44

[6] Luke 22.42

[7] 1 John 2.2

[8] R. E. Allen. “Anamnesis in Plato’s Meno and Phaedo.” The Review of Metaphysics (Volume 13, Number 1, September 1959).

[9] Ernest R. Falardeau. A Holy and Living Sacrifice: The Eucharist in Christian Perspective (The Order of Saint Benedict, Inc., 1996), p. 27.

[10] John 13.34

[11] Romans 5.8

[12] I Corinthians 11.24-25; John 6.54-57

[13] The Holy Eucharist—Rite II, Eucharistic Prayer B, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 368.

[14] Mark 10.43b-44

[15] 1 John 2.6

[16] Psalm 33.4 (New International Version)

[17] 1 John 2.1b

[18] Ephesians 5.1-2

“The Front Lines” (May 16, 2015; The Ordination of Peter Nathaniel Johnston to the Sacred Order of Deacons–The Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Lafayette, Louisiana)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by montgomerybrandt

“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”—II Corinthians 4.5[1]

To the Right Reverend Jacob Owensby, Reverend Father in God, Bishop of the Church in Western Louisiana; the Reverend Joseph Daly, Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, and the Reverend Dr. Duane Peterson, Associate Rector; all my brother and sister clergy; the Ordinand and his family; all the Christian faithful gathered, greetings in the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

On an October evening in 2011, my New York mentor, Father Andrew Mead, then Rector of Saint Thomas Church (Fifth Avenue), invited myself and a member of the parish staff to the Saint Thomas Rectory on Park Avenue for a chili dinner (being that his wife, Nancy, was out of town and he wanted to have some company to hang out with). While my fellow invitee drove his car through the maddening Manhattan traffic, Father Mead and I walked the several blocks that lay between Saint Thomas Church and the Rectory, giving us an opportunity to talk, mentor to mentee. As we began walking, Father Mead asked me a Commission on Ministry-type question: “Brandt, what is it that you feel called to do as a Priest?” I had a mapped-out vocational plan: “After finishing my required two-year curacy in Alabama, I’m going to go back to graduate school, get a Ph.D. in American religious history, then, hopefully, teach at a seminary or in a college/university theology or religious studies department.” “What about the parish?” Father Mead inquired. “It’s not that I have anything against parish ministry,” I said defensively, “but I just feel this strong call to live out my vocation as a Scholar-Priest.” “But many great Scholar-Priests also serve in parishes, Brandt,” replied Father Mead. “Parish ministry is important. It keeps you grounded and in touch with reality, with what’s going on with the people in the pews. It’s important that you be on the front lines with your fellow Priests. Never forget the front lines!”

This was the first of several “Meadiums” that I would learn from my now elder colleague and, needless to say, it was an important one. In a nutshell, what Father Mead was telling me was that “it’s not about you!” Although I failed to then realize it, looking back on that walk now almost four years ago, I admit and acknowledge that, subconsciously, I was trying to make it about me. The lecture room and the halls of academia were great loves of mine and it was there that I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to make scholarly contributions to the studies of African-American, American religious, and Anglo-Catholic history. I wanted to be a theologian and scholar on the same level as the Chadwick Brothers[2] and John Hope Franklin[3] and one of the leading Priest-Scholars of my time. But even though Father Mead did not dismiss the contributions of ordained academics to the Church’s life and witness, what he was making me realize was that many of them, like the Chadwick Brothers, Charles Gore[4], Austin Farrer[5], and Michael Ramsey[6], in addition to their academic vocations, were also deeply involved in parish and pastoral ministry. They did not hide behind the comforts and safety of a lecture stand; they were on the front lines preaching about Jesus and Him crucified, died, buried, and risen. For them, it was all about Jesus; everything they wrote, taught, and published all came from a deep love for Jesus, lived out by active ministry amongst and for God’s people and without that, all that they did would not have been as impactful as it was. The crucial lesson that I learned from Father Mead that October night was that if I enter into ordination with it being about me and not about Jesus, just to be well known and not willing to engage in the real work of ministry, then I will be setting myself up for failure. “…Do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”[7] It was a lesson that I needed to learn and thanks be to God that I did.

This past Tuesday, the Pew Research Center released a report that stated that although Christianity still dominates American religious identity by 70%, a large number of people have been exiting the doors of Christian denominations and doing away with Christianity altogether. It was also reported that while 86% of Americans say they grew up as Christians, nearly one out of five of them said that they weren’t anymore.[8] One of the reasons I believe this is is due to an “it’s about me” perception that is oftentimes conveyed within certain expressions of the larger Church. It is a perception that has led to many thinking of the Church as being too political, intolerant of those wrestling with deep spiritual issues and doubt, more wrapped up around the personality and prestige of the senior pastor, and just a once-a-week “stage show.” What these non-active and former Christians want is an authentic proclamation of the Gospel, to hear about Jesus and know that He is someone who truly cares and when met with this off-putting perception, it causes them to think, “Well, if this is what being a Christian is about, then I don’t want to have anything to do with it.” The Church—the universal Body of Christ—is called to confess the faith of Christ crucified, died, buried, and risen, bearing witness to Him in all the places it is. “And whatever you do,” Paul says, “in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”[9]

At the time of the writing of his second letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul was finding himself having to deal with the “it’s about me” perception. Some in Corinth were charging Paul with being haughty, puffed up on his own ego, and only concerned about his own personal gain. Having these charges made against him poised a potential hindrance to the spread of the Gospel and, in typical Pauline fashion, Paul wastes no time in setting the record straight. First off, it should be remembered that Paul was always honest and forthcoming about the life he lived prior to his conversion: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness.”[10] From the get go, Paul owned his past, that he was, at one time, “a persecutor of the [C]hurch, as to righteousness under the law blameless.”[11] But what Paul also made clear was that he had been humbled, that because of Jesus he “…renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways…refuse[d] to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…”[12] Paul answered the Corinthian charges by making it absolutely clear that what he was preaching was not himself, but the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did not and could not preach himself, for it is only Jesus, God Incarnate, who can redeem and renew. He was a preacher who looked to Christ for help and was on the front lines for Him since his conversion. For Paul, it was all about Jesus and knowing that the Gospel he was preaching was Jesus’ Gospel and not his. Like Jesus, all that Paul did in ministry to God’s people was done “…not to be served but to serve…”[13]

Just as it was important for the Apostles and other Christian expositors during the New Testament times, it is equally important, in this day and age, that those within the Church called to ordained ministry remember that it is Jesus whom they are charged to preach and not themselves. “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”[14]   The ordained vocation was not instituted for the purpose of allowing one to show themselves off, making it all about them, but, rather, for the revealing of the glory of Jesus Christ, being on the front lines for Him and proclaiming His Gospel. Everything that the Church’s clergy—Deacons, Priests, and Bishops—do should be done with the aim “…to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by…word and example, to those whom [they] live, and work, and worship.”[15] For the ministry of the ordained to be successful, they must be all in, totally committed to Jesus. When they are all in for Jesus, the people will take notice. When the people take notice, their hearts will become more open to the Gospel, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them to Jesus, the very Splendor of Truth. But, again, the only way that any of this can happen is for the ordained leadership of the Church to remember this crucial point: “It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus!”

This morning, as a faithful gathering of Christians, we have gathered together to offer to God our thanks and prayers for Peter, who will momentarily make the transition from being a layman to a duly ordained clergyman of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. After having been nourished by the riches of Christ’s grace and strengthened to glorify Christ in his own life as a member of the flock, Peter is, today, being called forth by God and with the affirmation of the people from the flock to offer ministry to and be a leader of the flock. As Peter becomes ontologically changed by the invocation of the Holy Ghost, it is important that he remember that it is not about him but about Jesus so that the gifts that he brings to the ordained vocation can be effectively used to equip God’s people for the work of ministry and for the reception of the Gospel by those who seek and want to be found by God. From this day forward, together with our Bishop and all the clergy, Peter will be on the front lines for Jesus, preaching not himself, but Jesus Christ as Lord, being a servant to the people for the sake and greater glory of Jesus.

Peter, my friend, you have oftentimes heard me refer to you as “the little brother that I never had.” So out of the deep respect that I have for you and in these last remaining moments of your lay life, I would like to offer four pieces of big brotherly advice:

  1. Always remember your Diaconal vows. Today, you are being ordained as a Deacon, the order of ministry particularly charged to be of service to the poor, the sick, the friendless, and the needy. Although your primary vocation will soon be as a Priest, I encourage you to never forget nor disregard your Diaconal vows, for you will find some overlap between the duties assigned to each respective order. As a Deacon, you will today promise “to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.”[16] At the time of your ordination as a Priest, you will promise “to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor.”[17] As a Deacon, you will be particularly charged to serve the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely, but as a Priest, you will be called to serve the people among whom you work, which will include the particulars mentioned in the Bishop’s Diaconal charge. Furthermore, at their consecrations, Bishops promise “…to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ,”[18] which encompasses all of the particulars served by the Diaconate and all of the people among whom you work of the Priesthood. So I encourage you to always remember and value your Diaconal vows, appreciating the fact that the Diaconate is the one order in which all the Church’s clergy share, aspects of which can be found in the other two. Although your primary vocation will soon be as a Priest and you may, possibly, even become a Bishop one day, always remember that at the core of your sacramental ministry, you are and will forever remain a Deacon.
  1. As my preaching professor at General Seminary told me, I say to you, “Keep your Jesus count high!” As a lover of the Church’s great hymns, you may be familiar with this mid-19th century hymn by Frederick Whitfield: “There is a Name I love to hear, I love to sing it’s worth; it sounds like music in my ear, the sweetest Name on Earth. O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.”[19] Jesus—Yeshua, “God Saves”—truly the sweetest Name ever to hear. This is who those non-active and former Christians are searching for, who the active Christian community seeks to proclaim, and who is calling you to service in the ordained vocation. Therefore, never be ashamed to speak the Name of Jesus. Preach boldly about Jesus, proclaiming to your people His Good News. To paraphrase Paul, “Be a fool for Christ!”[20] Your preaching will be the most striking and public of all your clerical functions[21] and will play a crucial role in how one perceives Jesus, whether it is actually worth it to pick up their cross and follow Him. Therefore, always remain faithful to the Message. Proclaim the Gospel with boldness and joy. In the pulpit here at the Church of the Ascension, at daily chapel, Eucharist, and in your classroom out at Ascension Episcopal School—Sugar Mill Pond Campus, at all the places you go and in all the things you do, keep your Jesus count high! Preach Jesus!
  1. Love your people. To quote Lifeway Christian Resources President and CEO Thom Rainer, “If we know that our pastor loves us, everything else falls into place. If he doesn’t, nothing else matters.”[22] Remember what John says, “…Whoever loves God must love others also.”[23] Love your people and Jesus will do the rest.
  1. And, most importantly, always remember that it is not about you! Not only will you be entering a new vocation within the Church, but with that will come a new style—“the Reverend.” Coming from the Latin reverendus, meaning “honored” or “esteemed,” it is an honorific that conveys the respect and esteem that the Christian faithful have for you and upon which the community “orders” you to function among them as an ordained leader. From this day forward, may every time you see “the Reverend” before your name and are addressed with a title of the ordained vocation remind you of the trust that the people of God have in you and of the sacred responsibility that will be placed upon you this day. May it remind you that you are on the front lines for Jesus and that as God’s people look to you as a leader among them, may you, in turn, give to them that which you have received, that Christ Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day.[24] “…Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”[25] Don’t ever make it about you. Do it all for Jesus!

As you begin this new adventure, may you abide in peace, loving and serving the Lord!

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

[1] All Scripture quotations contained herein are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Old Testament Section, Copyright 1952; New Testament Section, First Edition, Copyright 1946; Second Edition © 1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

[2] William Owen (May 20, 1916) and Henry (June 23, 1920-June 17, 2008), both highly distinguished Church of England Priests and ecclesiastical historical scholars.

[3] (January 2, 1915-March 25, 2009); author of From Slavery to Freedom (first published in 1947 and regularly updated), the authoritative scholarly text on African-American history.

[4] (January 22, 1853-January 17, 1932); early 20th century Church of England Bishop and leading theologian on the Doctrine of the Incarnation.

[5] (October 1, 1904-December 29, 1968); Church of England Priest and theologian credited with bringing to Christian theology the notion of “double agency,” the idea that one’s actions are their own, but are also the work of God, though perfectly hidden.

[6] (November 14, 1904-April 23, 1988); Church of England Bishop who served as the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961-1974 and was a leading Anglo-Catholic theologian.

[7] Proverbs 3.5b-6

[8] Grossman, Cathy Lynn. “Christians Drop, ‘Nones’ Soar In New Religion Portrait,” USA Today (, accessed May 13, 2015.

[9] Colossians 3.17

[10] Acts 22.4-5

[11] Philippians 3.6

[12] II Corinthians 4.2

[13] Mark 10.45

[14] Ephesians 4.11-13

[15] “Ordination of a Deacon,” The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 543.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “The Ordination of a Priest,” The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 531.

[18] “The Ordination of a Bishop,” The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 517.

[19] “O How I Love Jesus,” 19th century American melody, written by Frederick Whitfield (1855).

[20] I Corinthians 4.10

[21] Long, Thomas G. The Witness of Preaching (Second Edition) (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), p. 11.

[22] Rainer, Thom S. “Ten Things Church Members Desire In a Pastor” (, accessed May 15, 2015.

[23] I John 4.21 (Good News Translation)

[24] I Corinthians 15.3-4

[25] Ephesians 4.1-3