Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ember Days

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, in your divine providence you have appointed various orders in your Church: Give your grace, we humbly pray, to all who are called to any office or ministry for your people, and so fill them with the truth of your doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before you, to the glory of your great Name and for the benefit of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
The Book of Common Prayer states the Ember Days are traditionally observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays after the First Sunday in Lent, the Day of Pentecost, Holy Cross Day, and December 13. (BCP pg 18) Today being the first Wednesday after Pentecost is therefore an Ember Day. But what does that mean? For an excellent article, see Episcopal Cafe.

The readings for this day are reminders that all ministry in it's "various orders" (bishops, priests, deacons and laity) is about planting seeds. This language is so familiar in the teaching ministry of Jesus, including today's gospel from the fourth chapter of John: "one sows, another reaps." The temptation in ministry (and maybe especially in ordained ministry) is that we all want to reap for that which we did not labor. It makes us look "successful."

It is not surprising for Jesus to use agricultural metaphors, but it is a bit more surprising from St. Paul, who tends to be more classically "theological" in his writings. But in the third chapter of First Corinthians he, too, is talking about how he planted, Apollos watered, God gave the growth. It is a reminder that ministry is not a "lone ranger" enterprise.

We plant seeds. We water seeds that others have planted. Sometimes we get to reap the benefits of the good work others have done before us and enjoy the fruits of their labor. And then we plant some more seeds. Holy work, indeed.

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