A good man I know was ordained several weeks ago. He is now a deacon in the Anglican tradition. Following a six-month stint of service among his people he shall be, God willing, ordained a priest...collar'n'all. I'm so very proud of him.
I attended his ordination ceremony, sat in the back, soaked it all in. There is always a moment in a such a service when a 'charge' is given, a braid of words to both exhort and inspire. I adore such moments, pregnant as they are. I attest the charge given was orthodox, seamlessly hemmed and cuffed with appropriate chapter and verve. But as I've tried to recall the content, I cannot. Alas, it was not memorable. Oh, John, you just wish you'd been asked to give the charge, right? Ah, dear reader, thou knowest me too well. Yes, I confess that wish. Had I been charged to charge, here are the words. Alright, John, but are these words for a deacon or a priest? Yes.
I charge you with a phrase from the gospel of John, Updike that is: Your only duty is to give the mundane its beautiful due. You step from this moment with scripture and stole a man ordained to the ordinary. Ours is an existence in something more than the husk it once was but not yet the bloom it shall be; in other words, you are charged to the in-between, the middle-class, us. Yes, our lives are sewn on occasion with a texture of joy unmistakeable, the foretastes. But many days, if not most hours, reek of repetition, a mundane rising and falling punctuated with what the old hymn writer penned as 'seasons of distress and grief.' The relief you are charged to bring to our souls in times like these is beauty - nothing more, nothing less. It is your only duty. Give up all other ambitions for the dross they are. Give the mundane its beautiful due. Bear witness to the truth we so often bury, that our lives are shot through with drama, interest, relevance, importance, and poetry. Live among us, story by story, with both precision and surprisingness. Help us to believe in God by startling us with the kicker - God believes in us. Know this - yours is not so much a high calling as it is a careful attention... you are to be a man of prayer, not big britches.
Once you begin a gesture it's often fatal not to go through with it, so please, for the love of God and us and you, go through with this. The world for you may be even harder from here on in, but most things worth doing are hard. So break and bless and preach and teach and laugh and sing and weep and rage and whisper at the altar of this astonishingly splendid fallen world. Give the mundane its beautiful due. Amen and amen.