This homily was given by Taemin Oh, a second year ordinand, at Evening Prayer on Monday 7th June 2010. The readings was Romans 7:1-6;
Trinity Term is, actually very special period for many of us. Although today’s weather is not very good, it is mainly the trinity term that we can feel the dramatic change of seasons, in such a good way. And of course, for some of seminarians, it is a time of ‘leaving’ to prepare the first step of their future; ordination. So, the last couple of days, I have asked a question to some of the leavers: ‘How do you feel now?’ As you can guess, majority of them told me that they were pretty nervous but fine.
Surely, we know that the word ‘nervous’ does not mean that they are seriously afraid of doing something or they think they are not ready to be ordained! Rather, it was some sort of expression of ‘the expectation to the uncertainty of the coming future.’ Yet, it all sounds very far for me, but it does not seem to be a bad idea to think about my own situation.
Yes, they are all gone, we can see that. They are many empty seats now in this chancel and even they look quite sad. But is that all? Can we see anything other than just empty seats? As Timothy Radcliffe quotes from the classical film Brief Encounter in his book Why go to Church, it maybe possible for us to see these stalls through the concept of ‘absence’.
A board housewife and a GP meet in a railway station and fall in love, but finally they realize that they have no future together, so they must break with each other. That evening, the husband of the housewife, Laura, says to her; ‘You have been a long way away. Thank you for coming back to me.’
It sounds like nothing more than just the story of Eastenders, but Radcliff points out that it was not a physical absence of hers, but a mental, spiritual, human absence. In our real life, I am sure that we all know this ‘exist-but-not-exist’ status very well.
On the other hand, we also know that the sense of absence can bring us more than emptiness. The prodigal son in Luke’s Gospel had to empty his mind first to ask his father to forgive him and to accept him. Once the son emptied his mind, then he could fill his heart with other things. Similarly, in today’s second lesson, Paul says, ‘we have to die to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.’ We know that to die, in Paul’s perspective, is not an easy task, because we also know that to empty our mind is not an easy thing to do. We should say ‘No pain, no gain’.
Our leavers, bravely, had emptied their seats, their old identity as laity. But soon they will have their new identity as a deacon or priest. The continuers who are in this chancel today, we also should empty our minds, so that we can fill our hearts with love, charity, and prayer for others. And this is what we need to learn, during our remaining training period.
Let us pray.
We pray for those ordained deacon this year;
Michael Bailey, James Bradley, Michael Childs, Michael Ellis, Adrian Furse, Martin Henig, Daniel Lloyd, Simon Sayer and Alysoun Whitton.
We also pray for those ordained priest this year;
Mary Ashton, Paul Atkinson, Peter Boyland, Dexter Bracey, Milesius Brandon, Stephen Hearn, Josephine Houghton, James Rodley and Daniel Sandham.
Grant, We beseech Thee, merciful Lord,
that the designs of a new and better life,
which by thy Grace we have now formed,
may not pass away without effect.
Incite and enable us by Thy Holy Spirit,
to improve the time which Thou shalt grant us;
to avoid all evil thoughts, words and actions;
and to do all the duties which Thou shalt set before us.
Hear our prayer, O Lord,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.