Messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord…
It is hard to believe that it has been almost a whole year since I began ministering as a Deacon in this parish. Time has passed very quickly indeed!
The ministry of a Deacon is one of servanthood – the title is derived from the Greek word διάκονος (diákonos) – which refers to an attendant, waiter, or servant.
On becoming a Priest, a person does not however shed their role as a Deacon / Servant, but takes on new Holy Orders. All Bishops and Priests therefore remain also in the essential role of ‘Servant of Christ’ first and foremost.
But what is this new and strange adventure which lies ahead? The ordination service contains a sort of ‘job description’ and here is a short extract:
Priests are…to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord…to search for his children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations, and to guide them through its confusions…they are to call their hearers to repentance and to declare in Christ’s name the absolution and forgiveness of their sins…they are to tell the story of God’s love. They are to baptize new disciples…unfold the Scriptures, to preach the word… to preside at the Lord’s table and lead his people in worship…to bless the people in God’s name. They are to resist evil, support the weak, defend the poor, and intercede for all in need. They are to minister to the sick and prepare the dying for their death. Guided by the Spirit, they are to discern and foster the gifts of all God’s people, that the whole Church may be built up in unity and faith.
No small task then. It is a great relief that later in the service the Bishop will say:
You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God.
For this reason, prayer is the engine-
“…whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17).
What is especially exciting is that everyone is called by God into a vocation of one kind or another. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read:
"You are...a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people" formed to "proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."
Here the writer is saying that by virtue of our baptism and faith in Christ, all Christians are called into a role which builds up the life of the Church and manifests the love of God in the world.
Finding our vocation in the Lord is about no less than becoming who we were made to be. Real human flourishing is when we turn to God and say ‘yes’ to the will of the Holy Spirit. It can be hard to hear this still, small voice sometimes, especially when there are great demands on our time and attention. But through prayer we are all called to answer God’s call and say ‘yes’ to that will which sweeps divine love into the lives of those around us. And not only that, but it unfolds our own wings, and helps us to soar in ways we never thought possible.
I am not up to the role of Priesthood in my own strength – nobody is. But I trust that it is God’s will, and I pray that I will be given the ability to do the tasks which lie ahead. Please pray for me, that I may grow and deepen in faith and the love of God, and so may better serve the whole Church, and particularly our parish.
And may we all continue to discern together, every single day, the beautiful and unexpected new vocations to which the Lord is calling us. Let us prepare to be joyfully surprised at what grace abounds in the love of God.