Rev’d Laurie Hopping
I know this month is Bible month, and today I should be giving a sermon on the bible, I could talk about Diane’s relation Thomas Rogers who helped with the translation of the first bible into English, but after much prayer I have decided to put a side the readings and talk a bit about being a Vocational Deacon in the Anglican Church.
What has inspired me to do this, well, as I get to know the people here I believe there is at least a couple of people in this Parish that would make very good Deacons or Deaconess, in time they could be a real asset to Jonathans work with spreading the gospel.
I hope you don’t find this sermon just another history lesson, for me it is the only way I can see the Anglican Church moving forward instead of been in decline.
The Diaconate started right back with Stephen in Acts chapter 6 when the disciples appointed seven men to be Deacons to serve and look after the poor and needy.
People who want to join the Diaconate according to Paul’s letter to Titus Chapter 1 5-13 should be blameless, not arrogant or quick-tempered, addicted to wine, violent or greedy, free from debauchery, and married only once, they should be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright and have self-control.
So as you see the people who come here to St Peters would fit in to the Diaconate very nicely.
Over the years the role of being a Deacon has both changed and waned within the church, so that today in New Zealand, the Diaconate has become just a stepping-stone to becoming a Priest, in my observation I see that even though Bishops were once Deacons still don’t know what the Diaconate can offer, but things are changing, the order is been rejuvenated with many seeing that a Deacon in the Parish can be a real asset.
So with John and Luke ringing in our ears lets look at being a Deacon and Deaconess today.
On Friday 3rd of July I went to the ordination of 2 Deacons and 1 Priest in the Cathedral here in Auckland, and heard Bishop White read out the criteria for being a Deacon.
This is what I heard him say; first and most important is that a Deacon must walk along side the Parish Priest, both helping spread the Gospel and nurture to the Parish, sharing the load so the community is better looked after.
He then went on making it very clear that Deacons and Deaconess are to read the gospel, lead and instruct others in the ways of to doing intercessions for the people, receiving the gifts from the people and “setting the table” for the meal, help serve the Eucharistic meal, and send the people from the Church service out into the world.
Also Deacons can baptize and bury people.
These are the things that Deacons are meant to do within the Church, as you see they are there to help the Priest, not to take over.
Then the rest of the Deacons time is out in the community visiting the sick and elderly helping those in need spreading and encouraging others leading by example to take the Gospel to anyone in the community, and looking after the people in need.
You maybe sitting there thinking to yourself I do all these things now and I am not a Deacon, are there any advantage been ordained.
Yes I think it gives you that edge when you put on clergy collar, you will find that it opens many doors, people seem to see you in different light.
For example when I was in hospital with my heart attack Stephen Black the Ministry Educator for the Waikato came into see me it was early in the morning when doctors where doing their rounds.
When the doctors arrived at my bed and saw Stephen talking to me and he was wearing his Clergy Collar they stopped with a round turn.
We all know that doctors in the hospital are never to be messed with, they are supreme and Holy so they think, but as soon as they saw Stephen they apologized, all 5 of them, and even though Stephen said he would leave they would not hear of it.
They said they would come back, which they did 3 times, they must have finished their rounds, but they waited outside in the corridor, until Stephen had finish which would have been ½ to ¾ of an hour later.
All this because he was wearing his Clergy collar and they knew he was someone special, then the other good thing about been ordained is the training and support you get from your fellow peers,
Last week I was talking to Wilf Holt a Vocational Deacon from St Matthews in the City
Wilf told me why he is a Deacon, he said “ I feel the Diaconate runs parallel with the life of Jesus, he never had a fixed church, his ministry was out in the country side, he helped feed the poor people, and when he was at the synagogue he read the scriptures, and in his time with his father he prayed for the people.
For me.” Wilf said, “I try to live my life like Jesus”.
Think about this for a moment is this how you see Jesus?
I am at present doing a paper on the diaconate it talks about things that are happening in Sweden and I thought this fitted the church today especially here, I quote: “They say that there is in Sweden a belonging to the essence of the church — the Church is the people of God, a priesthood of believers, the body of Christ and also a community of servants the Church is the Diaconate, this is how St Peters makes me feel.”
Some of you will be saying I am to old to be going out do Gods work, yes well maybe this is true, when we heard from Jonathan last week he told us about what Vestry was doing with prayer in the parish and he finished by saying:
Prayer of repentance is important as a means of acknowledging to God that we need his help,
Prayer for one another is important as a means of protecting us spiritually, and
Praying that God’s name would be supremely honoured is central to our spiritual awakening – and it is that not what we are after! As a Deacon prayer is an extremely powerful part of working for God, so even though you think you maybe to old or to busy just a few minutes each day in pray can be very powerful.
So today I have looked at some of the advantages of taking the next step towards ordination and how this can enhance your ministry and your Church here at St Peters, I have looked at the power of prayer, but there is just one thing we must all remember that is that we are all in Gods army and just like our bodies we cant do without our head or our heart.
It is the same in God’s army ever part plays vital part in making the whole.
To spread Gods word we need Bishops, Priests and Deacons and you.
I hope I have given you a bit of an insight into part of your Church you don’t often here about, maybe I have whet your appetite go on the net and find out more about this very rewarding way of working for God, and talk to Jonathan
Wilf said to me as I was leaving. Just a thought to take away: we had just been talking about keeping your self safe:
Don’t give all of yourself to what ever you do— always leave something in your kete.
Take time for yourself —- you can’t help others if your kete is empty.