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The Holy Spirit and Holy Orders

Pentecost is Sunday.  The name means literally “fifty days.” It is the 50th day after Easter and Passover in particular.  It was the feast to celebrate the Israelites eating from the first fruits of the promised land. It marked the end of exile and the beginning of a new nation and people.

There is a sad irony to celebrating the feast this year in the dust of another conflict.  We are commanded to pray for peace in Israel in the Bible.  We should especially do so now.

But the feast is marked differently for us because of what happened on this day after the Passover of our Lord. 

The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples who were waiting on the promise of it to come.  This Sunday marks the birthday of the church as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that Jesus had given to the twelve now breathed through the whole body of believers and eventually became available to even those who were not born into the people of God, but were adopted into the covenant. 

We are in a new land as the people of God. For us the promised land is the world, and the first “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 3:28

The Spirit also gifts people for roles within the church.  We honor four orders of ministry within the church in the Episcopal tradition, going back through the Reformation to the early church.

The Laity are the first and primary order. They are the body of Christ, the living vessel of the Holy Spirit, and the place were God is known.

Bishops are the “overseers,” the literal reading of episcapolos. Their job is to oversee the local church, in our case the diocese. The “elders” or presbyteros we call priests are emissaries of the bishop who lead local communities, along with “all other duties as assigned.” These orders are concerned with the order of the community and particularly called to preach, teach, and administer the sacraments.  

Deacons are the first order named from the laity in the Book of Acts.  Their job is to serve at the table, making sure that all are fed.  The ministry of the deacon is very close to the heart of Christ revealed when he put a towel around his waist and washed his disciples’ feet before he broke bread with them and promised the Spirit. 

The other ministries bear other parts of Christ’s ministry, but it is the servant’s heart that reveals the true nature of the others as being rooted in love and not mere power as we think of power. Love to create and make new, love to bring life to death, hope to the streets, and joy to the people God loves, especially those we forget to include.

So as we celebrate Pentecost, it is fitting to rejoice that the Spirit has made us the laity, all of us, and set aside gifts for us, all of us.  And that same Spirit sets asides some people as special gifts to God’s people, deacon servants who call us close to the heart of Christ and show us the way to love.

Join us as we celebrate the ordination of Jean Hawkins and Erin Oney on 5 June 2021.  

Apparently the service may not be live-streamed as we had planned.  We are working on a fitting celebration, so stay tuned for updates.

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Christ Church of the Ascension 

Paradise Valley, Arizona