2 Samuel 5.1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12.2-10; Mark
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body
of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we
offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and
ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of
your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
OVER the next two days, ordinations will take place across the
Church of England. Archdeacons, lawyers, and directors of ordinands
will testify to the newly presented candidates' theological
attainments and excellent character. Later in the service, when the
duties of ordained ministry have been read out, congregations will
be asked to proclaim their support for the candidates to be
The question is phrased realistically, and asks the people to
consider "how great is the charge that these ordinands are ready to
undertake" before agreeing that matters should proceed.*
This particular act of the Church is very properly underpinned
not only by evidence of credentials, but also by serious public
recognition of what a calling to ordained ministry means. Any
preacher at an ordination this year would find much in Sunday's
readings to give substance to what, in summary form, may sound
David, Paul, and Jesus are all found in situations where
identity and integrity must be proved. On the face of things, David
has the easiest time. He is already a popular figure, and a
military hero, and a far more attractive personality than his
predecessors. As a member of the tribe of Judah, he is of the
people, authentically their "bone and flesh" (2 Samuel 5.1).
To make his claim to kingship absolutely clear, however, the
narrative includes a second assurance in the shape of the covenant
which is established with the elders of Israel, with the Lord as
witness (2 Samuel 5.3).
Paul faces a very different set of circumstances. He must make
his claim to be the true apostle of Jesus Christ in opposition to
the superficially exciting evangelistic techniques of some
"super-apostles", who have led the Corinthian Christians away from
the tougher message of Paul's preaching, with its single-minded
emphasis on the resurrection, and the reorientation of all
priorities by that event (2 Corinthians 11.5, 12-15).
Setting aside his own visionary experience with consummate
rhetorical skill (2 Corinthians 12.2-5), Paul insists that his only
credentials are his weaknesses; for in these God's grace is shown
to be most powerfully at work (2 Corinthians 2.7-10).
Jesus returns to his home town with a reputation for teaching,
healing, casting out demons, and raising the dead, yet claims none
of these things as a mandate for addressing the people of Nazareth.
Instead, he does what he has done in other places, and goes
straight to the synagogue to teach (Mark 1.21, 3.1, 6.2).
Mark's description of the reaction of the locals hints at a
poisonous residue of conservatism and resentment of those aspiring
above their station (Mark 6.2-3). There is no rejoicing in the
talents of a local boy - no claiming him as "one of us", as the
tribes greeted David. But equally striking is Jesus's astonishment
at their "unbelief" (Mark 6.6). It is not the people's rejection of
him, but their rejection of his Father that shakes him, especially
when their discussion has brought them so near to seeing in him
more than the well-known carpenter (Mark 6.2). That failure to
receive what is selflessly offered sends him and the twelve away to
the surrounding villages.
The newly ordained will rapidly discover what it means to put
oneself at the mercy of others in God's name, and how much harder
it can be to engage them in a shared vision than to lay down the
law, or impress them with ministerial pyrotechnics. Like the
twelve, they must travel light, and be consistent in their message
(Mark 6.8-12). St Benedict, whose feast day falls on 11 July,
condensed a wealth of wisdom into the three key tenets of his Rule:
stability, obedience, and conversion of life.
But it is in the ordination service itself that they (and those
they will serve) will find both the greatest challenge and the
In the name of our Lord we bid you remember the
greatness of the trust that is now to be committed to your charge.
Remember always with thanksgiving that the treasure now to be
entrusted to you is Christ's own flock, bought by the shedding of
his blood on the cross. It is to him that you will render account
for your stewardship of his people.
You cannot bear the weight of this calling in
your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God.
Common Worship Ordination Services: Study Edition (Ordination of
Priests) (Church House Publishing, 2007)