for Revd Sylvia Hancock
delivered by Revd Dr Bill Loader at Maylands Uniting Church 13 June 1999
We have ordained you to the Ministry of the Word.
This is one ministry within the wide range of ministries exercised by all who have joined themselves to Christ, the minister, Christ, the receiver and giver of the life of God in the world.
You are now to be a receiver and bearer of the life of God in a distinctive way, exercising the Ministry of the Word. The community of the Church is asking you to be a bearer and interpreter of its ancient tradition, a skilled facilitator of corporate worship, and a leader in the Churchs mission of bearing the life of God to its members and to the world.
The bread is on the table. You need to break it and ensure it is distributed. The cup is already poured. You need to ensure its celebration is shared. Brokenness in compassion is not to be confused with our failures in stress management; the poured out life is not to be confused with burn out. You are not called to be the saviour of the world, but to pass the bread and the wine. The miracle is not how far you can stretch yourself, but how faithfully you lay the table. The decorations of pious language and the sentiments of specific cultures are not the meal. Art and beauty may point to it, but the true art and beauty is the vision of reconciliation which that meal prefigures and the life of lowly service it re-presents.
The meal must not be hidden away. It is not a private religious affair to be protected, but a place for ecstasy and adventure. People are hungry. They dont know the way in and if we dont know the way out, the bread becomes stale and wine goes off. Find the spaces for the table out there, wherever. Open your arms in creativity and the spaciousness of the Spirit. Dont be satisfied with fast food faith or serve up meringue pie for bread and wine. What the world needs most is Jesus and the elements are all there. Feed richly and feed others richly. Lead people out and lead people in; lead people to the places of bread and wine.
We have not ordained you to ministry; that happened at your baptism;
We have not ordained you to be a caring person; you are already called to that;
We have not ordained you to serve the Church in committees, planning activities, and organisation; that is already implied in your membership;
We have not ordained you to become involved in issues of justice and peace, in the struggle, personal, social, political, against all forms of oppression and idolatry; for that is laid upon every Christian.
We have ordained you to something smaller and less spectacular:
to read and interpret those sacred stories of our community so that they speak the Word to people today;
to remember and practice those rituals and rites of meaning which in their poetry address people at the level where change operates;
to foster in community through Word and Sacrament and pastoral care that encounter with truth which will set people free to minister as the body of Christ.
We have ordained you to the Ministry of the Word. Amen.