14th century poet Hafiz suggests two ways of playing God at chess.
What is the difference
Between your Existence
And that of a Saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the beloved
Has just made such a fantastic move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over joy
And bursting out in laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.
I wanted to write a post for those who are being ordained at Chester Cathedral on Saturday. They are Avril Ravenscroft, Collette Jones, Grant Cohen, Heather Buckley, Heather Pang, Lorraine Reed, Nikki Eastwood, Patches Chabala, Paul Cumming, Rob Wardle, Sandra Langerhuizen, Stephen Callis, Steven Hildreth, Tim Watson and Trevor Legge. They will be preparing for this great event in God’s mission over the next few days. My own priesting was in Sheffield 38 years ago. I have to say that I am as enthralled today as I was then.
People are ordained as a response to vocation. This is a call for and in the church for the enabling of God’s mission. It is a call to the church that is heard within the church, and it is the church which tries to discern who is best to respond to that call and which then goes on to support and equip them. The discernment is concerned with whether the person has the gifts to minister to others given the needs of a situation in the capacity of an ordained minister or whether they are gifted for ministry in another form.
God’s call and his gifts are all God’s ministry to the world and his way of serving the needs of his creation. They are also God’s ministry to us personally. Ordination focuses on God’s ministry in and to his church, and on his ministry to and through us. The joy in this realisation is, for me, personified in the great laughter of Desmond Tutu.
Sadly, for all of us, the pressures and responsibilities can be overwhelming. Worldly pressures, anxiety and fear can be allowed to get the better of us. I joined this morning’s prayer of the church and read what Jesus said to his disciples. “Don’t worry about your life.” (Luke 12:22) I then joined the church’s response based on Psalm 73. “Lord, you will guide me with your counsel and afterwards receive me with glory. For I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” (That has to be the left hand for those who are left handed).
This hand in hand counselling reminded me of the consultancy model painted by Charles Margerison as “arm in arm consulting”. There is considerable responsibility in ministry, but that responsibility is not given to us to overwhelm us or weigh us down. It is given in love and for love. Those with heavy burdens are invited to yoke themselves to Christ to make light work, to lighten heavy hands and hearts and to be blessed and blessing. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). (Yoke and yoga have the same Sanskrit root denoting union).
Jan Richardson’s If the Yoke Fitswould make a wonderful design for stoles or chasubles. The traditional yoked chasuble is a visual reminder of the light work of ordained ministry and God’s ministry to his ministers, ordained and lay.