Sermon at the Ordination of Deacons
Luke 22: 24-27
Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, Texas
Eight years ago, long before I was a bishop, I was the brand spanking new rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Waco.
And as a new rector, I had a situation that I wished to discuss, in person, with the brand new bishop, Dena Harrison.
So I called up the diocesan office in Austin.
And I got an appointment to see Bishop Harrison that next week, on October 31st.
On the morning of my appointment with Bishop Harrison, I wanted to make a good impression with my new regional bishop.
So I put on my nice black suit and one of my crispest white clerical collars.
Driving down to Austin, I stopped in at a local Whataburger, because I love their breakfast taquitos.
So I walk in and wait patiently in line at the Whataburger.
And when I get up to place my order, the woman behind the counter looks up and exclaims:
“Wow! Great costume!”
To the eight of you who are being ordained today:
You are not wearing a Halloween costume.
This morning, these eight women and men put on that stiff, white clerical collar for the very first time (that is, legitimately).
And in a minute, you will be vested with a stole across your shoulder.
But this is no costume.
You are not performing or acting.
Instead, those who are being ordained today embody service, the same loving service embodied by our Lord Jesus Christ.
When Jesus Christ was born on this earth,
When he lived and died as one of us,
He was not wearing a costume.
Jesus did not pretend to be human.
Jesus did not perform or act.
Instead, Jesus embodies true love.
Jesus embodies true love – when he stoops down, pours water into a basin and washes our feet.
Jesus embodies true love – when he teaches us that a true leader is one who serves.
Jesus is not wearing a costume when he speaks to us saying:
I am among you – as one who serves.
To those of you who are being ordained as deacons today, the rest of the clergy in this church can all tell you funny stories about reactions we have received when people have spotted us wearing clerical collars in public.
For myself, I know that wearing my clerical collar in public generates whispering and hilarious comments and incredulous looks, especially when I am in a restaurant, sitting closely to my wife.
At times, I have even joined in the debate in my own head about whether I should wear my clerical collar in public.
Or if a polo shirt and khakis would be less distracting to the Christian Gospel I am charged to proclaim.
Yet I have come to the conclusion that the ordained clergy should wear our collars out in public – exactly because it is incredulous and hilarious and weird.
For the good news of God in Christ that we proclaim – is incredulous and hilarious and weird.
We Christians, both lay and ordained, proclaim that the greatest among us is the one who serves – which is incredulous.
We Christians proclaim Christ crucified – which is just plain weird.
We proclaim a man born of a virgin – which is absolutely hilarious.
And here the eight of you who are being ordained today are wearing strange collars and archaic vestments.
Yet you are not wearing costumes.
No, instead you are embodying true service, a message of love that is both weird and hilarious.
In fact, I bet that there is someone in this church right now who is looking at these eight people and thinking:
Really? That’s hilarious!
Our ordained clergy wear clerical collars out in public.
And the public thinks that we are wearing a costume, that we are weird, that we are hilarious.
And that’s okay:
Because the good news of Jesus Christ is weird and hilarious.
Yet there is a more important sign, a more important sign than a clerical collar that marks us as carriers of the hilarious Christian message.
Most all of us in this church this morning have been baptized.
For both lay and clergy alike, in baptism we have been sealed with the sign of the cross on our forehead.
With a thumbprint in oil, we have been marked as Christ’s own – forever.
We all carry around a weird and invisible sign.
Yet we’re not wearing Christian costumes.
We are the body of Christ – living as one who serves.
We are the resurrected Jesus, walking around on this earth – which is absolutely hilarious.
We are the Church – and let me tell you, folks – the Church – is weird.
We are weird – because we believe in the resurrection of the dead.
We are hilarious – because we call ourselves daughters and sons of God.
We are weird – because we believe that serving others will change the world.
We are hilarious – because we proclaim that Jesus is alive.
We are weird – because we welcome all sorts and conditions of people.
We are hilarious – because we shout from the rooftops that Jesus loves everyone, everyone, everyone!
In baptism, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.
And each and every day, we wear an invisible cross on our forehead out in public.
We bear the sign of Jesus, who comes among us as one who serves.
My sisters and brothers:
We are the baptized.
We are the incredulous and hilarious and weird Church.
We are the risen body of Jesus, walking in – to your local Whataburger.
This ain’t no costume.