- Within the first three minutes of the liturgy of ordination- for deacons and priests- in the Presentation by the sponsors and the opening dialogue between ordinand and bishop, the ordinand pledges obedience to the bishop and loyalty to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as the Church has received them. (BCP 526, 538.) In the ordination service of a Bishop, the bishop-elect vows to “obey Christ and serve in his name,” and to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,” while promising to serve the dioceses’ people, encouraging and supporting them. (BCP 518).
- In my wallet, I carry a number of plastic cards that identify me in various ways: as a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as a citizen of the United States, as a member of AAA, as a participant in the Episcopal Church Medical Trust, an organ donor, and a member of a local credit union. There is also a picture in my wallet of me and my three siblings, taken a few years ago standing on rocks in Casco Bay.
- In a few days, I will spend some time in the red and pink aisle of the grocery store selecting Valentine Cards to mail to my children, nieces and nephews to remind them of my enduring love for them.
- On my left hand I wear three rings: my wedding ring, my college ring, and two small rings that were my mother’s. On my right hand I wear a bishop’s ring that bears the seal of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Each day I put on a pectoral cross- one of the identifying marks of a bishop, who wears a cross over his/her heart as a sign of their allegiance and connection to Christ and his Church.
- Last Sunday, I stood and took the hands of four individuals in mine and, in the ritual designed by the Church, I recognized them as members of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church and received them in to the fellowship of the (Anglican) Communion (in the Episcopal Tradition).
- And this Sunday, some churches will celebrate the Presentation in the Temple* which is the moment in which Mary and Joseph, following the custom of their tradition, brought the baby Jesus (along with their sacrifice of two turtledoves) to the temple to complete the right of purification for Mary following childbirth, and to redeem their firstborn son, Jesus.
It’s a theme worth considering on these cold winter days in which the instinct is to hunker down, wrap up, and stay at home.
To whom do we belong?
This question of belonging is wrapped up, of course, in the question of identity. In the season of Epiphany, we revel in understanding of Jesus as the Messiah. We share in the Epiphany of his manifestation as King and Lord of all- in the story of the Magi who represent the far corners of the world, all part of God’s beloved kingdom; in the story of the Wedding at Cana in which our eyes are opened to the magnificent power of the God’s anointed; and in the Baptism of Jesus as we learn of Jesus’ connectedness, his own belonging, and God’s great delight in him. We learn who Jesus is, and whose Jesus is…
… and what do we learn about ourselves, our identity and belonging, along the way?
I belong to my family, to my diocese, and to my Church. And I pledge obedience and loyalty. The pledge of obedience is not a yoke around my neck, but an arm around my waist, or a hand in my own hand, as it connects me and holds me and gives me defining sense of who I am, in relation to others. I like being accountable to others.
Ultimately, of course, I belong to God.
It’s easy in our day-to-day work and activity to side-step that relationship and focus on the ones that are more tangible or, challenging… and so each day, I make a point of pausing to re-connect with the One with whom I am eternally connected. The One who knew me when I was still in my mother’s womb, and who will know me unto the ages.
- In what ways do you find yourself connected- to others, to a faith tradition, or to God?
- Which of those relationships are solid, and which of them need tending?
- What are the benefits of belonging, and how do you show your gratitude for the deep connectedness that you enjoy?
~Thoughts for reflection on a -3 morning as the instinct is to wrap up and stay put.
*(the Feast Day of the Presentation is on 2 February and in some congregations will be transferred for celebration in church on Sunday, 3 February)