Dear Tracey,

Thirty-nine years ago last month I stood up in St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Toronto with eleven other young men and women to do what you are doing this morning – or I suppose by now, have already done.

The last Sunday you and your family worshipped with us at St. Philip in Victoria was Pentecost Sunday. I preached on John 14:7-18. I said that I find it deeply touching that our community bears the name of Philip who had such a profound understanding of the human condition, demonstrated in his approach  to Jesus when he asked,

‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ (John 14:8)

Philip understood that seeing “the Father” is the deepest longing of the human heart.

I do not know what your ordination service will look like. But, in my deaconing service the bishop asked a number of questions. In the question I have come to value most highly, the bishop asked,

Will you look for Christ in all others?

It is a beautiful vision of ordained ministry. The job of the ordained person is to “look for Christ.”

I am ordained to be a Christ-detector. I seek to discern the Presence of beauty, mystery, truth, and love hidden just beneath the surface of life. It is my job to find where the energy of love is at work and encourage that flow. By seeing where Christ is moving, I support the power of love which so often feels invisible or even entirely missing.

If I am to fulfill this call, I must begin with the conviction that Christ is in fact there to be seen “in all others,” no exceptions. It does not matter if I like or dislike the person, agree or disagree with them, approve or disapprove of their life choices, they bear the image of God. They are created in love, by love and for love.

Indeed, the love we call Christ is there to be seen in everything. The only question is whether I have eyes to see.  The whole of life is suffused with the beauty and goodness that, as Christians, we believe was embodied in. But, it is not important if a Christ-flowing event is taking place within the confines of my little tribe or in a setting in which Jesus is never acknowledged or named.  Wherever the power of love is at work, Christ is present.

It is not always easy to see Christ everywhere. It is a struggle sometimes to see the light in the midst of the darkness, perhaps at times most of all, in this flawed broken vessel into which you are ordained today. There are times when I need to look hard to penetrate the surface.

Jesus responded to Peter’s request to be shown the Father saying,

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)

The word translated “seen” is horao. It could, perhaps less poetically but nonetheless powerfully, be translated as “stare”.

Whoever has stared at me has seen the Father.

What are you going to “stare” at in your ordained life?

There will be so many demands upon your attention, so many people needing a little piece of you. If you allow your “stare” to become fixed on the demands that are always present, you will sink.

Remember Jesus said,

you always have the poor with you. (Matthew 26:11)

This is no council to be callous toward those who suffer. It is simply a recognition of reality. We swim in an endless sea of human need; it is deep and turbulent. If we “stare” only at the desperation, we will drown. We will benefit no one. We must look deeper than the surface tension of pain and suffering that afflict so much of life.

We must “stare” at Jesus if we are going to stay afloat in the tensions and pressures that characterize this calling to which you have committed yourself today.

Always seek the beauty, the goodness, the truth in every person and in every situation. When you “stare” in the right direction, your spirit will be nurtured and deepened, even in the midst of darkness and pain.

When you “stare” at Jesus, your ministry will be sustained over the long haul. You will be guided to those needs to which you are particularly called. And you will be able to look away, not with coldness but without guilt or shame, when a particular need is not authentically  calling your name. Jesus never uses guilt or pressure to motivate. The Spirit of Jesus leads gently to life both for the person who is offering care and for the recipient of that care. “Staring” at Jesus will bring balance and sanity into your ministry.

Although physically today we are separated by 7,441 kms, our hearts are with you this morning.We give thanks for the time we shared together in ministry. We will pray for you in church, albeit after you are ordained, but as you begin this next great venture in ministry. You have committed yourself today to seeing Christ everywhere. May your heart be filled with the peace and strength that come from seeing clearly the deep Presence of love within your heart and wherever you may look.

God bless you,