Monday, June 6, 2011

O Sacred Head . . . pre-ordination speech

On Saturday May 28th, all ordinands were asked to speak for 90 seconds to the annual meeting of the Toronto Conference. The task was to choose a favourite hymn, one verse of which was sung by the Conference, and to use that hymn as inspiration in order to give the delegates a "tantalizing glimpse of our call to ministry." Below is my hymn and my speech.

O sacred head sore wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown:
how art thou pale with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn;
how does that visage languish,
which once was bright as morn!

My remarks

So why did I chose to speak to the Good Friday hymn, "O Sacred head?" Well, just as any Sunday service can be a celebration of Easter, so any moment can be one in which we remember the Way of the Cross, which is marked by sufferiing. For me, today is a special kind of Holy Saturday -- a time of waiting between the humiliations of life's ups and downs and tomorrow's ritual of renewal.

Ordination is a ritual that, like confirmation, refers back to our baptism. One of the key things that struck me about baptism in the course "Confessing Our Faith" was that none of the three main United Church statements of faith connect baptism to death.

Not so with St. Paul. In Romans he writes, "all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life."

My call to ministry is on this difficult baptismal path where the hope is for rebirth into a life beyond ego.

When I was confirmed at age 14, I became a confirmed atheist. But I went through with the service anyway since the person presiding was my father, the late Rev. James Clare Kellogg. During my teenage years as my brothers and sisters and I drifted away from church, my father sometimes tried to reach us through music. We all loved choral music, and Bach was my favourite. So Dad took us to Toronto to hear St. Matthew's Passion and he led a Lenten discussion group that centered around the choruses from that work, especially O Sacred Head.

My father's efforts did not bear fruit at that time, but my memories of them remain. And so tomorrow as I put on my father's alb, receive the laying on of the hands from my younger brother and sister, and am ordained with one of my father's stoles, I will remember the promise of rebirth that is present in the glorious music of Bach and in the sacrament of baptism. I will also remember that it is a promise that only glimmers at us dimly through a veil of suffering and death.

Thank you.

Back to "Completing the Circle"

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