Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bishop Iker's Sermon at the Chrism Mass

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

During the course of about eighteen years as a parish priest in the Diocese of Southwest Florida, I attended many ordinations, perhaps as many as four to six a year. And it was the custom in that diocese at the beginning of the service for the bishop to have a priest stand up and read to the congregation assembled the Preface to the Ordination Rites found on page 510 of the Prayer Book. (Don’t go looking for it now!) It was read as a way of stating before the service began what our church understood about what we were about to do in ordaining a deacon or a priest. It begins with these words, “The Holy Scriptures and the ancient Christian writers make it clear that from the apostle’s time, there have been different ministries within the Church. In particular, since the time of the New Testament, three distinct orders of ordained ministers have been characteristic of Christ’s holy Catholic Church.” And then it goes on to briefly summarize the essence of what a bishop is, what a priest is, and what a deacon is.

Part of the awesomeness of this service today is that all three orders are present here at one time and place to renew and reaffirm the sacred vows which each of us took when we were ordained. And I want to simply begin with the reminder that the first theme of what we do today is “continuity and fidelity.” Continuity and fidelity. We promise to continue the apostolic ministry of Word and Sacrament as we have received it from the New Testament Church. We promise to be faithful to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them. The Preface then goes on to state, “It is also recognized and affirmed that the three-fold ministry is not the exclusive property of this portion of Christ’s holy Catholic Church.” In other words, at each ordination we were reminded that neither the Episcopal Church, nor indeed the world-wide Anglican Communion, owns in any sense, or possesses in any sense these three-fold orders of ministry. We have received them from the apostolic Tradition of the catholic Church. They are not ours. That is to say, we cannot add to, nor can we subtract from, the giveness of the Apostolic Succession. We can’t vote in conventions to alter what we have received by the ordinance of Christ and the apostles. It belongs to Him, not to us. We can only continue in fidelity to that which we have received and assure that we hand it on intact, unchanged, undiminished, unblemished, to those who shall succeed us. It is an awesome thing and a great privilege, my brothers and sisters, to do what you and I are doing today. There is nothing “ho-hum” about it. It is an exciting and challenging time to serve as a bishop, or priest, or deacon in God’s Church today. [the sermon continues]

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