The Ordination of Michelle Marie Moyer
To the Sacred Order of Priest
January 24, 2015
Cathedral Church of the Nativity
Friends, we are here this morning to affirm God’s call of Michelle Marie Moyer and to witness her ordination into the priesthood of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
We do this on a day that the church has set aside to remember the Conversion of St. Paul. After listening to the reading from Acts, I think we can all take a breath and relax. If Paul is acceptable to God after what he did as Saul – harassing, persecuting, prosecuting, even stoning, bearing false witness, and physically attacking the followers of Jesus – if he could do those things, and then be used by God in carrying on the ministry of Jesus, then you and I and Michelle don’t have much to worry about, do we? There is no way that the failings and inadequacies which seem so great in ourselves and in our gifts and in our lives could separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, is there? No, there isn’t! Nor could they keep us from seeking and receiving a share in the ministry of Jesus either.
God’s love is that great. God’s mercy is that wide. God’s Love great enough for Saul, great enough for each of us. God’s mercy wide enough for Saul, wide enough to surround and enfold each of us, too. How’s that for the Good News of this day?
Paul received this Good News in a rather startling and dramatic way. He was riding along on his horse and there was a blinding light that knocked him off his horse and on to the ground, and then he heard Jesus speaking to him. It’s hard to believe that Jesus wanted Saul in his ministry, but he did, and Jesus went to some extraordinary lengths to get that message across to him.
I know something of Michelle’s spiritual journey and there is a powerful experience of God’s mercy and God’s love in her own life. A moment when she knew no matter what, no matter anything else in her life, she knew God’s love and mercy was flowing over and in and through it.
I also know that she, like many of us, has also experienced that love and mercy growing in quiet, but nonetheless miraculous ways, in her life and in the lives of her family. For most of us, I think, that is how God’s presence is experienced; as a growing awareness that we are surrounded and infused and empowered by God’s love and acceptance and forgiveness.
Do you remember the wonderful telling of that experience by Albert Schweitzer, one of the giants of faith, who came to know Christ in this way. He wrote:
He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those … who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.
This is precisely what Jesus is telling us in the Gospel reading. If we will seek Jesus, if we will take him into our hearts and lives, if we will follow him, if we will take on his work as our own, if we will remain faithful, each of us will come to know fully the love and mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ, and we will be saved. We will be saved.
My most favorite psalm is the 139th Psalm.
Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting places
and are acquainted with all my ways.
God knows you Michelle, God knows you and all your ways, and God has called you forever to this very day to be made a priest. Today you stand before God and the Church. Child of God. Disciple of Jesus. Servant of any and all in need. Ready. Ready to take on this new ministry, this new servant role.
It seems that your considerable gifts can be useful in the work of God; that you can take on this new work in the ministry of Jesus. God has called you anew. God has called you deeper into the mystery of God’s love. And you have discerned God’s call anew. The Church has also discerned and tested that call with you and affirms that you are being called by God into the priesthood of Christ.
Frederick Buechner writes in The Alphabet of Grace, (pp. 109-110) “I hear you are entering the (priesthood),” the woman said down the long table meaning no real harm. “Was it your own idea or were you poorly advised?” And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else’s. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching in the feet. It was a stirring of the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and if I could not even name the name for sure. Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you a high and driving peace.
In other words, it is both a mystery and a grace that one is called to be priest.
God calls you to become priest. It is both terrifying and it is terrific! We follow the Christ who leads us through death to life. Death to selfishness, death to ego, and life to the truest self within. … our call is to continue dying to self and, as a result, to continue becoming truly alive, to continue growing in boldness and righteousness, in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and, yes, even holiness.
Your bishop believes in his heart that this is God’s call to you. Your own sponsoring priest and parish believe this is God’s call. One-time strangers in a discernment group believe this is God’s call. The Commission on Ministry and the Standing Committee of this diocese believe this is God’s call. This cathedral parish and all who are in it and have come to love you and have received your ministry as pastor believe this is God’s call to you. And it is our will that you, Michelle Marie Moyer, be ordained a priest.
Some level of what Jesus describes in the Gospel will come to you in this ministry. As they say, no promise of rose gardens. Real people, real life, real dangers. Some sadness, some hurt, some disappointment. Into this real life God comes in Jesus Christ, and in this real life you will minister to God’s people and build God’s kingdom brought near in Jesus.
Michelle, will you stand. Michelle, your ministry as priest will be to heal and to reconcile, to baptize and to anoint with holy unction, to teach and nurture the young, and to preach God’s holy word, to soothe the wounded and to comfort the lonely, to guide the confused and lost, to visit in home, hospital and prison, to lead God’s people in caring for Gods world, and to administer the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ that strengthens and empowers all who partake of it.
To stay strong and faithful keep close to God’s holy Word. Keep close to God in regular prayer and contemplation. Keep close to your colleagues who know and understand your ministry as priest like no others can. They can guide and comfort you, and laugh and cry with you. Do not deny yourself their fellowship. Remember when God calls us it is always into community.
The mystery of God’s love will be revealed to you as you go about this ministry, and you will know Grace upon Grace upon Grace from God.
And we promise to be with you and support you in all of it, because we know that that your ministry as priest is of God.
May God bless you, guide you, and strengthen you for it in all the days ahead. Amen.