Gospel Reading: Luke 10: 1-11
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”
In this passage Luke continues to draw out what discipleship means, what following Jesus means.
Today we will celebrate with Hannah, as she presides at Communion for the first time. Her journey – like ours – has two directions; first we are called towards Christ, and second we are called to go out, onwards to share the good news with others. Ordination is a very particular moment which only a few of God’s people travel through, but that does not mean God does not have a call for us, for all of us are called to witness to God’s love and promises, all are called to share our faith, all are called to work for the Kingdom, all are called to love their neighbour, the needy, the poor, whoever they are.
As a stipendiary priest (someone whom the church pays) Hannah is asked to “go” where the church believes she is called – but as a priest she is ordained to help gather the people of God in worship and in witness. Some talk about the minister “celebrating” communion, even using the word “celebrant”. That is wrong! We all celebrate Communion together, and the priest is tasked with presiding at the meal, presiding at the Table, so that all can share the meal. Some versions of the Prayer Books use the word “President”, which has all the wrong connotations of status and power: “presiding minister” is better. The bishop ordains her that she may help gather the people of God around the Lord’s Table, and as a new priest she is also given authority to pronounce the absolution of sins and to pronounce the blessing of God on others. That doesn’t make a priest a better person though it does put a responsibility on us to seek God’s holiness with greater zeal; we as wayward and doubtful and anxious human beings, some of us prone to an arrogance and over-confidence, need to be reminded of where we are before God, both in need of mercy and loved and blessed as children, and in its wisdom the church sets apart some who can have that responsibility.
In our gospel reading Jesus chose 72 and sent them out to be his hands his voice, his ears his eyes, to multiply his ministry. They are to be gracious but tough, vulnerable but focused, people of peace even when there is hostility; they are not to be compromised by the world, nor stand-offish in the world.
Just because we celebrate with Hannah that she has been ordained, does not mean we are not also called; we are all called to be Christ’s hands, voice, eyes, ears and heart.
As we gather at the Table where all are welcome, we acknowledge our sin, our need for God, we find mercy and invitation, food for the soul, and we are sent out with a blessing to bring that blessing to others. Oh, and we also spend time together reflecting on the Scripture and praying for those who need prayer.
Please continue to pray for Hannah and for those of us who have been ordained for rather longer, that we may know our calling under God, that we may help enable the people of God, as we face up in worship, look within at who we are, and face outwards seeking to bring glimpses of the Kingdom into this world, just as the 72 did in their day, in their way.
Revd Peter Reiss