Watch above: A recording of the Ordination of Meredith Kadet Sanderson to the Transitional Diaconate on Saturday, July 10, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Liverpool.
Download the worship bulletin: Worship Bulletin for July 10th Ordination
Watch Bishop Duncan-Probe’s sermon:
Come, Holy Spirit. Give us ears to hear you and courageous hearts to respond. Amen.
“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry.” So often we think of calling as choice. We think of calling as decision-making or selection or some sort of pecking order. We think of calling as being good enough to be called. We think of calling as a need to straighten ourselves out so that we could possibly be useful.
The world has a message for us, you see: “You’re not enough. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough, skinny enough, tall enough, fast enough, strong enough.” That’s because the world has forgotten who it is. We have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that the calling of God is not something we elect to do. It is something we have two responses to: yes or no. Will you be who God has created you to be? Yes or no. Will you use the talents and skills God has gifted you with, for service to others? Yes or no.
It’s easy to stay to think that this day is all about Meredith and in a way, kind of is. We’re kind of thrilled. I’ve been saying all day, I probably said it all week, and you may have to get used to it. I might say for a while, but normally a Bishop doesn’t really know [the person they’re ordaining]. I’m ordaining people on the basis of other’s opinions. I’m taking it on faith that somebody has been a good servant in a community of faith. This time, people of God, I know. I am the authority on this one. I chose Meredith to be on my staff full-time. I have changed her position a couple of times, but it’s always in basically the same: to help us with her giftedness, to be the people God’s calling us and making us to be. Meredith is a faithful friend and a wonderful person. (This is my turn to cry.) I am so proud of her. Not because she’s so great, but she kind of is. Because she’s so faithful. The question for Meredith has faithfulness. Where’s God? What’s the right thing to do? What’s the next thing to do? She hungers for faithfulness. She hungers for service. She hungers for it in a way that is so beautifully rare. It inspires us all.
I think we are here today because we have experienced that drive for faithfulness, for Meredith. It’s made us better people too because it’s reminded each of us that we are called to strive for faithfulness too. As much as we love and believe in Meredith: we know you’re not perfect, and it’s okay. You’re enough. Not because you’re tall enough, which clearly you’re taller than me. But because God is in you. Because God has created you, all of us, all of you who are watching at home or wherever you may be everyone in this room, you’re good enough because God created you for this.
The question is not whether or not you’re called. You are called because God has created you to be you. The question is, will we say yes or no? Will we serve God? Will we receive it? It is by God’s mercy. It’s a privilege to do what we do. So often in ordained ministry, we get burdened by it or beat down. We start thinking about how much of an obligation it is, or nobody understands how tough this is, and certainly, in the last year, that’s been true.
It’s been hard on all of us. This is a hard time. The world is very confused and like all of us, we get confused sometimes too. We wonder where God is. What’s next? What will happen with the Church? How will the Church survive? What will the Church be like? We get all caught up in thinking that’s our decision to make. We forget that we only one decision. Will we say yes or no? Will each word, thought, and action on our heart, come from a place of seeking God or of greed? Will every action on our heart comes from a place of inclusivity, hope, and offering? Or selfishness, hardheartedness, and judgement?
We have been created to be the image of God and proclaim faithfulness, truth, and hope in the light of Jesus Christ.
There is great gift in that. We can’t make the Church bigger. We can’t make the Church more solvent. We’re not called to do any those things. We’re not called to be perfect. We can be the Church. It’s ontology. This is where I get to talk about ontological. I don’t get to do that very often. I try to leave out the big hoity-toity words.
To be who God has created us to be, for the sake of all God has created us to do, means to be ourselves. To be authentic, to be real, to be courageous enough, to be humble, and vulnerable. It is a hard thing in a world that is determined to be right about everything, to instead be faithful about everything. It is a hard thing in a world that feels that is called to judge and criticize, to instead accept, include, affirm, and empower. The love of Jesus Christ calls and emboldens all of us.
Now I know one of Meredith’s favorites, and one of my favorites is Thomas Merton. He writes that our desire to do the will of God, pleases God. Because, when we desire to do the will of God, God’s already won. We’ve set aside our egos and we’ve set aside our selfishness. We’ve said, you know what matters to me more than being right? You know what matters more to me than getting what I want? You know what matters more to me than what people think of me? What matters more is that I be faithful to God’s call in me. That with this one precious life, I do all that God’s called me to do.
We also get caught up in thinking we have forever to do it. “Well, I’ll get around to that, but there’s a lot of busyness right now.” We forget that your life, my life, we’re only given this moment to be who God’s called us to be. To speak the words on our heart, to do the things on our hearts.
Richard Rohr has written (I don’t actually know if it originates with him): “The thoughts in our head become the words on our lips. The words on our lips become our actions and our actions become our character and our character stands forever.”
So those thoughts in our heads that say we’re not enough: they’re not God’s thoughts. Those thoughts in our heads that say, “Well, what will people think of me?” are not God’s thoughts. The thoughts in our heads that say, where can I go with this mercy and offer it to another person? How can I be part of a healing of a world that is so broken and twisted that it thinks, that hating a neighbor is okay? How can I love my neighbor as myself and in loving find love? Offering peace, find peace? Those are God’s thoughts.
On this day of ordination, this is a day for the whole Church to rejoice, for a disciple has grown and has been able to say, “Yes, Lord send me, as you have called me.” The Church has responded to say, “Yes, send her. We know you have been called.” It is a beautiful testament to faithfulness because this has long been coming. Some of us have been waiting quite a bit for this one. Most of all, Meredith, her family, and Christopher. What a blessing to all of us, the faithfulness of their family, continuing to walk this journey, continuing to seek, to proclaim, continuing to walk this journey.
That the light may shine out of darkness and shine in our hearts. It starts in the darkness of our hearts, the light of the Christ’s love that shines out for all people. In this world of institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, division, arrogance, greed… That we would know mercy. That we would know inclusion. More than inclusion, that we would know empowerment. That we would know, honor, integrity, authenticity. At the end of it, of our lives, we can look back and say, “Here, Lord,” I have answered your call and my desire to please you, has pleased you. I’m at peace.
To go where God sends us. To be as God calls us and has created us. To answer with a holy, “Yes, Lord.” Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons? “Yes, Lord.” Will you work for the honor, integrity, for justice, and peace of all people? “Yes, Lord.” Will you serve the church? “Yes, Lord.” Will the Church unite behind the love of Jesus Christ? “Yes. Yes, Lord.”
This is a sacred day for all of us, and for those at home, and those in this space. For all of us to be affirm that God has created you, and so your calling is in you, in between all of us. That as each of us walks this life and this road, God has called us in mercy. We have the privilege of knowing we have engaged in this ministry and so we do not lose heart. God is. God will be. So we are. Amen.