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Morrinsville Celebrations

Election and Vocation

On Sunday the Reverend Geoff Lamason was ordained priest in the Parish of St Matthew's Morrinsville.  It was a day of celebration and hope for us all.  We were  fortunate to have the Reverend Sue Burns preach and below is a copy of her sermon.


Philippians 2:5-17

Now, that’s over – election day PLUS 1. No more exit polls, no more phone calls at night from a recorded Bill or Jacinda, no more conjecture.  Some of us will be pleased, some of us will be disappointed, some confused or indifferent.

Today, election Plus 1, Geoff is being ordained as a priest/ presbyter in the church. Geoff wasn’t elected by majority vote or because this and not that group of people turned up on the day.

Geoff’s ordination is happening because God’s call on his life has been tested by the church and Geoff has shown his commitment by undertaking 3 years of Theological Education which is where I met Geoff when I worked at St John’s College.

If you look at the first part of the service you will see this three-way relationship between God, Geoff and the Church.

Each party responds to the question: shall we proceed? They answered:

It’s a yes from me, it’s a yes from me, it’s a yes from us, that’s three yeses.

Or Let’s DO THIS.

Here’s a  question:

What does Geoff Lamason have in common with St Paul?

The clue was in the reading from Philippians…  pause.

Yes they are both passionate about Jesus as Lord, what else….

They each talk about running.

Geoff’s flaming red hair was clearly visible as he took out regional records well ahead of the field.

I don’t think St Paul’s Pharisee School had athletic days but athletics was part of the Greek and Roman world in which Paul lived.

He uses running towards a prize as a metaphor of his life of faith.

Here’s a bit of backstory

Paul wrote this letter almost at the end of his life 60 from Rome to a church he had preached into faith.

So for Paul the words of our reading are an ending, for Geoff and for us they are a beginning.  

Often the two are the same moment, a moment of change: child to school,  Young Person on OE, formalising relationship.

These transition moments have a poignancy – what we say matters.

You know like Jesus at the Last Supper preparing for his absence.  

Something that will last.

Paul’s letter is personal and particular and expresses deep affection for those who would read it in their communities. He affirms and encourages them for their partnership with him in the gospel.

What does this passage anticipating Paul’s absence say say to us at the beginning of Geoff’s presence as priest?

It appears that within this community, so affirmed by Paul there was a bit of niggle going on. Now this may never happen in St Matthews Morrinsville or wherever you come from. Paul builds a platform of encouragement and affirmation of the people’s love of Christ, their partnership with Paul and then he he names some of the niggle, you can see this in 2:1-4 - individualism, claiming superiority- in verse 14 of the reading there is a summary
Do all things without murmuring and arguing – aha- there is the niggle.

Into this space Paul says

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

He’s not hauling one person out- Geoff, you have this mind. This is a corporate YOU:

Paul uses a hymn of praise to Christ who

 ‘ though he was equal with God did not consider equality with God something to be exploited, humbled himself, took the form of a servant, was obedient to death, therefore God exalted him.

We hear the mysteries of our faith, the Trinity, the incarnation, the cross, the ascension.

Our response with Paul is one of praise and celebration. The reason Paul uses this hymn is to situates his teaching on relationships in the church.

Christ is our DNA- have his mind- attitude, mind set in all things because it will spill out in humility as we relate with one another.

Our DNA, the mind-set of Jesus, is chosen, costly service.

It was risk, it was grace, it was hard and led to a cross.

Paul uses this hymn in its entirety as a mirror for niggling Christians, then and now.

When we do humility in the face of Christ we see each person equally loved, valued and gifted by God, different and equal.

We are the body of Christ by one spirit we were baptised into one body,

That mind set of humility, risk, grace and guts is grounded in our shared experience of Christ, it leans us into overcoming the niggles and towards the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Christ is out DNA.

When I left theological college the principal prayed for each student and gave them a verse. I stood in line- wonderful promises- I have chosen and appointed you to bear much fruit; I am with you always to the end of the age; come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Warmth filled the space. Students glowed as they walked back to their seats.

I walked forward and knelt, held my breath.

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

It’s funny how you can hear half of something and zone out for the rest! I walked back to my seat confused and a tad disappointed until later I listened again:

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

This is about God’s work in us. Let us remind ourselves that this is another plural, corporate YOU. for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

I have to say it is quite a challenge for any Christian community to discern the priorities of God and do them. Yet, by God’s leading in us  in small and large ways we see this happening here in Morrinsville and elsewhere. These acts of service affirm God’s presence.

Life in relationship with God, with others and in ourselves is going to be hard work that takes effort BUT we are not on our own.

Paul uses Disneyeque picture of us shining like stars.

This reminds us that being church is not about close-knit, niggle- less, happy, self absorbed, comfortable community. I think it’s about authenticity, connectedness and honest relationships that shine as radically different in our context.

Our context is complex- if you compare Bill English Jacinda Aredern’s speeches last night you will have heard very different ways of speaking, content and approach. We need to listen so that we can shine like stars visible and voiced in the places where Christ calls us to be.

You might be wondering – what has THIS got to do with Geoff’s ordination?

Fair question, this is about partnership – Geoff is priest in community in the Morrinsville team, he has deep connections. To enable us to be star-shine we need encouragement, support, relationship.

As Geoff grows into being priest he will enable us to do this:

  • through pastoral care,
  • through proclamation,
  • through the gentleness of touch that invites us into the reality of our mistakes and puts us back together in forgiveness
  • and through the sacraments that hold us in the embrace of God.

St Paul has finished his race. Geoff is setting off on new lap, this one doesn’t stick to the track he and Gayle imagined. The predictable circuit has become cross-country.

He will face his own challenges, concerns. criticism from within and without.

A former Archbishop of Canterbury said- A priest maybe liked, a priest maybe admired, but they will not become a true priest until their heart is broken.

Some priests here this afternoon maybe saying Amen to this. Others here will agree.

For Geoff there will be tears, deep questioning; soul searching.

When the stars have ceased to shine Geoff’s work will be to hold onto hope, to remember he is running a course run by Christ before him; he is not running alone. Our work in community with him will be to carry him in prayer, sometimes slow to a walk and journey on together.

As Geoff takes his place in the people of God as priest, this ministry is about the three-way relationship of Christ, the Church universal, and the local Church of St Matthews. It is a place of partnership, giving and receiving, listening and speaking, forgiving and being forgiven that God’s kingdom comes and God’s will is done AND our joy will be complete.

Amen

 

Story Published: 26th of September - 2017

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