Here (in highly inadequate prose-form) is some semblance of my charge to the congregation at Matt Carriker's ordination/installation this past Sunday.
You have heard a great deal over the past hour or so about Matt Carriker, someone we have been blessed to know on his journey toward this moment; on his quest to fulfill the Divine call to ministry. He is being installed as the Assistant Pastor of Religious Education at The Eliot Church. He has been duly charged and now it is our turn. It is a moment to look—not away--but in a slightly different direction. To consider what this moment may mean for us.
I will start with an old charge, one from the tradition of the “other half” of the church that Matt is being installed in today. It is an old call to action from the 18th Century Universalist prophet and minister, John Murray;
“Go out into the highways and byways. Give the people something of your new vision. You may possess a small light, but uncover it, let it shine, use it in order to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women. Give them not hell but hope and courage; preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.”
Now, in 2010, it is a time for uncovering lights. Things seem to be a bit darker than they were before. The suffering of many people long ignored can be ignored no longer. It is, after all, a time of confusion and suffering for many pushed aside and away from the warm security of the human family.
Martin Luther King told us not too long ago that “we are caught in an inescapable network of Mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny/injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and yet, before, during and after the time of King we see the forces and powers arrayed to tear that single garment or at least to take it away, leaving some people naked and exposed. Those people are reaching out to the church if they know they can. Some of them are no doubt here today happy for the blessing of a community of faith in their lives. However, sometimes tragically they reach out and find only emptiness because they do not know what to make of us or—scandalously--we do not know what to make of them.
They call to us, these voices on the margins. God calls us to repair the garment of society. We are charged today, quite simply to hear that call and then to act on it.
Not everyone who is called (and we all are called) gets a party, do they? That is something that ministers and a few others have the opportunity to experience. Not everyone who is called (and we are all called) is able to hear that call as clearly and as distinctly as is our friend and colleague Matt. But do not doubt that God is calling your name. Do not doubt that whatever it may be—whatever the call that you have heard may be--the gifts you have been given are up to the task.
The charge, simply put, to us today is to go forth into the highways and byways. To let our lights shine and to forever live out the love of God.
Can we do that? I believe we can.
Finally--as an extra bonus--here is a link to my Dad on Anderson Cooper talking about the the current situation in the Michigan AG's office. Dad is the skinny one. If you aren't sure which one that is, his name is Jim Tierney.