2018 Ordinations: A Day of Grace
By Rev Mary Vano | October 24, 2018
October 20, 2019, was a day of abundant grace. When the Diocese of Arkansas gathered to ordain five new men and women to be priests in this one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the grace was made visible in the red vestments – symbols of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You could see it in the majestic procession, over a one hundred people long; in the grand architecture of the Cathedral with a flaming frontal on the altar; in the voices of modern people singing the ancient hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. Yet the primary image of grace at this ordination was not in the sights and sounds of the day, but in the distant memory of the best quail hunt ever known.
In the book of Numbers, the story is told of the seventy leaders who were called by God and gifted with the spirit so that they could help share the burdens of the people. In that same chapter, we’re also told of the occasion when God satisfies the cravings of the Israelites by sending them so many quail that each person gathers about 10 bushels. Quail covers the earth. It’s enough to feed the whole tribe for a month. God’s grace is abundant.
Bishop Benfield preached eloquently on this story, saying that, “If there is ever a story of grace, then this is it. If there is ever a story of gift without merit, then this is it.”
And yet, as Bishop Benfield pointed out, God’s abundant grace is often overlooked, abused, and taken for granted. Many of the Israelites who received the quail died of their greed, even when there was plenty to be shared by everyone. As we heard, “A lot of us cannot handle the gift of God’s grace, the gift of God’s love that is scattered about, waist-deep, regardless of merit. Grace can be overwhelming.”
The job of the priest, then, is to “be an exemplar and storyteller of grace.” Bishop Benfield reminded those being ordained that, “To be a priest is sometimes to take on the form of Jesus and navigate this world of difficult-to-understand grace and be called demonic because we proclaim that the right order of things is for the blind to be seen by the sighted, and for those made mute by the powerful finally to be heard, and for the hills and valleys to be leveled so that the constructs of this world, such as our economies, will no longer hide us one from another. To be a priest is sometimes to take on the form of Paul, who keeps calling the quarreling back into relationship, so that the constructs of this world, such as our politics, will no longer separate us. To be a priest is to become exemplar and storyteller of grace, and there is no time more important than right now when such priests are needed.”
It was indeed a day of grace for all of us. Let’s give thanks and welcome the grace-filled ministry of the Rev. Stephanie Fox at St. Margaret’s, as we also learn to notice and gratefully receive the grace that God bestows upon us all.