April 17, 2014
Make good your vows to the Most High
On Tuesday of this Holy Week the clergy of our diocese gathered at our cathedral with our bishop for a service of renewal of ordination vows. I renewed my priestly vows to respect my bishop, to study scripture, to offer the sacraments, to be a pastor, to model my life according to the Gospel, and to pray. Yet I participated in the service with a different perspective this year. What will these vows mean in the future? Ever since my ordination nearly thirty years ago, I have lived out those vows as a parish priest. But now these vows will have a new and different context for me. And I don’t even know what that context will be.
As we concluded the Holy Eucharist, we sang one of my favorite hymns. “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” is hymn 490. The words and music sent me into a reflection, and it is this reflection that I share with you now.
I want to walk as a child of the light;
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world;
The star of my life is Jesus.
I do want to follow Jesus. The ways in which I have tried to follow Jesus in the past have had so much to do with the church. Now I simply want to follow Jesus wherever he leads me. Like a little child, I want to follow the star of my life, like the wise men of old.
I want to see the brightness of God;
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear Sun of Righteousness, shine on my path
And show me the way to the Father.
Imagine what it would mean to look right at Jesus. Not filtered through years of tradition, history and source criticism of the scriptures. Imagine what it would be like to have a clear light on the path ahead. Imagine Jesus taking me by the hand and leading me to the Father. I want to look at the face of Jesus with the pure adoration with which Sheldon looks at me.
I’m looking for the coming of Christ;
I want to be with Jesus.
When we have run with patience the race,
We shall know the joy of Jesus.
As the span of my life lengthens, I realize that I am now closer to the end than to the beginning. I believe that Jesus is always there with me, even when I fail to acknowledge him. And I believe that he is coming at the appointed time to lead me home. Then I will be with Jesus and know the joy of his presence forever. The older I get, the deeper is my conviction that nothing will separate me from the love of God, not even death. When my time is near, I will be looking for the coming of Christ.
In him there is no darkness at all;
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
Even in the darkest times of my life, Jesus has been there, shining a light into the black hole of my despair. His perfect love casts out my fear and the night becomes like the day. Not all at once, of course. Sometimes his light has come gradually and gently. Sometimes I have waited long for the light to come. And sometimes it has come with the sudden brilliance of a sunrise. As my life takes a major turn, I open my eyes and my hands and my heart to Jesus. Even now I sense his brightness. My hopes and prayers and intention are to walk with him, to behold his glory and to know his joy. As the road opens up before me, I have confidence that he will shine in my heart.
I will still be a priest of the church. And I will seek to fulfill my ordination vows. But now I perceive that there is a new vow of discipleship for me. It is simpler, more direct, more personal and more profound. In the time I have left, I will welcome Jesus more deeply into my life, and open my heart so that the Lord Jesus may shine there forever.