So here we are then; four days until ordination, rehearsal at Christ Church tomorrow morning before being whisked off to Cuddesdon for a three day retreat, followed by the big day itself. In the Cathedral I will be supported by my family and friends. All people whose support I ‘cherish.’ Why, you may ask, does he keep going on about the word ‘cherish.’ Simple really, it is a word that has loomed large in my life over the last week or so.
First, ten days ago I bought a new (second-hand) car. It is a shiny black ‘cherished’ Mini Cooper Clubman. (Thank you to my bro’ in law Jimbo for the number plate Y23 REV). Secondly, because my weekly reading from the Rule of Benedict implores his followers to ‘Cherish Christ above all else.’ Benedict suggests that when we cherish Christ unconditionally our obedience to his will for us will follow naturally.
Now cherish is an interesting word. I think it possesses a mystical quality in that if defies precise definition. Mini go some way to explaining the concept of cherishing, for a ‘Cherished Mini,’ is one that has been well looked after, serviced properly and where Mini can trace the cars provenance.
Theologically this definition is, however, less than adequate. Cherishing Christ surely means to be drawn ever more deeply into the mystery of the incarnation where our response is a form of love that goes beyond mere words. Cherishing Christ moves us beyond cognition into a deeper level of knowing. I can’t explain it, but I know how I experience it. So my first ordination hope is that I will truly, from this day forth ‘cherish Christ above all else.‘
My second hope is that I will focus on the development of my own ministry and not the criticism or ‘idolatry’ of other approaches to evangelism. It seems to me that this is one way we can honor Jesus’ pre-Crucifixion prayer that ‘they may all be one.’ During my training one bible passage above all others has hit me fairly and squarely between the eyes and it is Peter’s restitution beside the lake. Firstly, we have the confirmation of his love for Jesus, followed by Jesus effectively telling him to mind his own business, to concentrate on his own ministry, leaving John (presumably – he is simply referred to as the beloved disciple) to Jesus.
My final hope is that I will be able to use words only where necessary. This biblical imperative was stressed in this morning’s N.T. reading from Celtic Daily Prayer (James 3, 1-12). In verse 8, for instance James warns that ‘no one can control the tongue – it is a pest that will not keep still, full of deadly poison.’ Benedict also frequently warns against the dangers of speaking too much, ‘even about spiritual matters,’ for often our speech (my speech) is designed to impress, to dominate or to bring about disunity – and, I think, the more we are convinced by the ‘rightness’ of our view, the greater the opportunity to alienate others.
So there you have it my three ordination hopes: to cherish Christ, to focus on my own developing ministry and, to guard my tongue.
Please pray for me and all God’s children this Petertide.