Amazing grace

Ordination of Chad Rynehart
Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School Chapel
24  February 2018

 

May these words be spoken
and heard
in the power of love. Amen.

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We are gathered here in this school chapel for the ordination of Chad Rynehart.

It has been my privilege to serve as Chad’s spiritual companion during the past three days as he prepared for this service. That precious time which we have shared will inform what I have to say, although nothing that we discussed will be shared with you today.

Were this an ordination service with several candidates, I would be expected to speak in fairly general terms about the importance of the ordained ministry within the life and mission of the church, and especially the role of Priests.

But we have just a single candidate for this service, so the focus falls on one guy—and my comments will also be rather more individualised than might otherwise have been the case.

 

Amazing Grace

We all know the popular hymn, Amazing Grace. It was written by—of all things—by someone who had been the captain of slave ships, taking captured Africans to America to be sold into slavery, and had himself been the slave of an African princess. Even after retiring from the slave trade and becoming an Anglican priest, John Newton continued to invest in the slave trade for many years.

The words of that hymn came to mind as I reflected on the conversations I have shared with Chad these past few days.

A constant thread in those conversations was grace: recognising—even if only with the benefit of hindsight—the loving presence of God in different circumstances and situations.

It is that idea of grace that I want to explore a little further with you today.

Maybe we can move from hindsight to foresight, and develop the spiritual skills to recognise and respond to God’s grace in real time, rather than only with hindsight.

 

Charis: beautiful, gift

Grace is a word that has two major sets of meaning, even in English,

In the conversations that I shared with Chad these past few days, I think we were mostly thinking of grace in the sense of: undeserved gift.

We were recognising various ways in which God has been present in our lives, often unrecognised and always undeserved. The miracle of sacred presence. The miracle of loving presence.

That is an idea I will return to shortly.

The other meaning of grace, is beauty.

When we comment on the grace with which someone acts, we are responding to something very beautiful about them. The dance, they speak, they act … with grace. It is a joy to watch them. They are authentic and beautiful because of the grace with which they act.

I shall also return briefly to that idea at the end of this reflection.

 

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

In John 1, as the poetic prologue ends, the writer adds these words:

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

During the past few days as Chad and I have engaged in conversation, prayer and solitude this has been a truth that we have each recognised: out of God’s eternal fullness we have both received—and you have all received—grace upon grace.

Grace upon grace.

What an inviting concept.

One good thing on top of another good thing, and more good things on top of those good things.

Grace upon grace.

How good is our life as people of faith, and even as people of little faith.

 

LIFE

The first and most profound grace that we have received is life itself.

We do not have to exist, and we cannot cause ourselves to exist. Life is a gift. A grace. A gift that we do not earn, and yet also a gift from God’s own self. We exist because God exists, and because God generates life.

It is grace. Thanks be to God.

 

COMMUNITY

We exist within community, even when we choose to be alone.

Around us, before us and after us is a rich community of humanity, and indeed all creation. As we are coming to realise more and more, we are connected within an immense web of life.

For much of the time that web of life may be invisible to us, but it sustains us and we contribute to that web by our actions and our thoughts, our hopes and our fears, our successes and our failures.

This too is grace. Thanks be to God.

 

KINSHIP

Within that immense web of life there is a circle of people with whom we are most at home: our families, our lovers, our intimate friends. These are the keepers of our secrets. They know us better than anyone else, and love us regardless.

This too is grace. Thanks be to God.

 

CHURCH

Connecting with a different set of people across cultures, nationality, place and time is the mysterious reality of the church. Here we glimpse God’s dream for the universe and find the spiritual wisdom needed to live lives that are holy and authentic. Here—when church is at its best—we find a safe space to explore the meaning of life, and to experiment with our own response to the God who call us.

This too is grace. Thanks be to God.

 

MINISTRY / SERVICE

Neither of these terms is quite the word I want, as they speak mostly to activity within the church or in the name of the church. The Greek term leitourgia would be better, but is mostly misunderstood as liturgy. In the ancient Greek world, leitourgia was an act of public service, something done by an individual for the sake of the community.

In our daily work and in the ways we spend our discretionary time, we are called to serve others. As we serve others, and as others serve us, the fabric of our society is created, enhanced and protected.

For some that will be ministry as a deacon, priest or bishop.

For others it will be ministry as a teacher, technician or gardener.

For others it will be ministry as a parent, as a carer, as … (insert your role here).

This too is grace. Thanks be to God.

 

Grace upon grace

Grace indeed takes many forms, and will be present even if we do not recognise it.

But here in this service we do recognise grace.

We celebrate grace.

We honour grace.

And we seek more expressions of grace in the years to come.

This school community is a community of grace. May it ever be so.

This ordinand, Chad, is a person of grace. In both senses of the word. May he ever be so.

 

Chad, we affirm today that we embrace you as a person of grace. You are a blessing to us and especially to this school community. And you are someone in whom we see the beauty of God at work as you gracefully go about your ministry within this community.

Grace upon grace.

We affirm and celebrate the grace of God within you, and we stand alongside you as you say yes to the God who calls you into new expressions of grace as a Priest in this school community, as a Priest in the local church, and as a Priest in the life of our Diocese.

This too is grace. Thanks be to God.

 

 

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem.
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