​Twenty-three people were ordained as
deacons at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne
on 1 February.
 

On Saturday 1 February, 23 men and women were ordained as Deacons at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne.

The full text of the sermon preached by the Revd Jan Joustra at the ordination service is below.
 
----

This morning I join with Dean Andreas, in welcoming so many people from many different backgrounds to this wonderful service of Ordination. I particularly welcome our candidates, some 23 of them, one of the largest groups to have been ordained in Melbourne in recent years.

But my question is, what is it that we are doing here today? Some of you here who are not so familiar with the Church may be asking that same question, what is ordination and what does it do? More importantly for our candidates, what sort change, if any, will it bring?

I am sure over the last few years or preparation and especially the last few days of retreat,  Sue, Andrew, Jonathan, Charlie, James, Jeffrey, Anne, Nisher, Monica, George, David, Christopher, Matthew, Mark, Paul, Owen, Fiona, June, Sharne, Kuncoro, Lachlan, David, and Emily have all spent a long time thinking and praying about these very questions.

I still clearly remember that during my time of waiting to enter theological college, I had some serious doubts as to whether being ordained was the right thing for me.

I had to give up a good lecturing position in a university, Linda, my wife, had to give up her job, we had to sell the first house that we had ever bought and move away from our friends and begin a new life. (a pattern of life that has become all too familiar to us in the subsequent years).

I can remember a time of deep anguish and turmoil after days of restlessness as I struggled with whether I should proceed with ordination or not.  In tears I went into my local church to wrestle this very problem out with God. I proceeded to tell God, in no uncertain terms, that I did not want to go through with it and he should choose somebody else, but then a calmness came upon me and I found myself saying to God “well if you really want me, you had better tell me”. It just so happened that next to me was a copy of the old green Prayer Book, I opened it up and immediately the page fell open to Psalm 40.

I waited patiently for the Lord: and he inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up from the pit of roaring waters out of the mire and clay; and set my feet upon a rock and made firm my foothold. He has put a new song in my mouth; even a song of thanksgiving to our God;

The psalm then continues:
 
Sacrifices and offering you do not desire; but my ears you have marked for obedience; Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required then said I, Lo I come. In the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will; O my God, I long to do it, your law delights my heart.

All I could do was turn to God and say, “Alright you win!”

One of the greatest struggles that candidates for ordination have is dealing with the feelings of unworthiness. How can God call me to do this task, I am not good enough, I am not clever enough, I am too sinful a person to do God’s work, why are you calling me? But if we look at the scriptures we see it is full of people who thought they were too unworthy to do God’s work, starting way back with Moses.

The truth is that God does not see us in the same way we see ourselves, God does not just look at us and judge us, God looks into us and takes joy in his creation and then uses us as his servants.

Our gospel reading for today is a prime example of the way in which God does not judge us from the outside.  I think this story from John’s Gospel is one of the most powerful stories of apostolic ministry in the scriptures and serves as a brilliant example to us all.

The story is set at midday in a Samaritan town, Jesus happens to be sitting by the well in the centre of town when a local woman comes to fill her water jar. There appears to be nothing unusual about this scene, because we forget that Jews, like Jesus, did not go into Samaritan towns and that only outcast women would draw water at the hottest time of day. Jesus then breaks the taboos of his day, and begins a conversation with the woman. “Give me a drink”, he says, (not very polite), she clearly is very quick witted and a little sharp of tongue, replied, “why do you a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink”, she knows the rules.

Jesus sensing that she is quite a feisty woman replied, ‘If you knew the gift of God, who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him, he would have given you living water.’ She then retorts with a sarcastic tone, “ You sir have no bucket, and the well is deep, where are you going to get living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob?”

Now it must be realized, that in Ancient Israel there were three kinds of water. Dead water, the sort you pulled from a muddy wells, that was the water the Samaritan woman was drawing. Then there was cistern water, the sort of water we drink that has been caught and stored, and then there was Living Water, the sort then runs down the mountain and is clear and bright. But the image of water here and throughout John’s gospel is even more than that, because there is a direct reference right back to the waters that covered the earth at the beginning of creation. What Jesus is offering her, as he does each of us, is a new creation a chance to start all over again.

The woman catches on that Jesus is offering her something very special. She had spent a good part of her life drawing the dead water of sin at the hottest time of day, Jesus was offering her what she longed for, to be free from her sinfulness, to stop being an outcast, and really take hold on life in all its fullness.

She says to Jesus, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” She wants to change her life.

Jesus then confronts her with the reality of her life. He does not condemn her, he knows exactly who he is speaking to, but he says, “Go, call you husband”.  She is a little embarrassed, ‘I have no husband’ she replies, and Jesus agrees, ‘you are right in saying you have no husband, for you have had five husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband’.

At this point I should add that there is an alternative translation to the word ‘husband’ in this text which could mean ‘god’. A common point of difference between Jews and Samaritans was the charge by Jews that Samaritans had multiple gods and not the one true God of Israel, in which case it was her idolatry that she left behind at the well not her moral sinfulness. In either case all she can do is acknowledge the truth, ‘what you have said is true’. She then takes a step forward in faith, ‘I see that you are a prophet.’

They then enter into a theological discussion about worship, (which for brevity I will not go into here) which ends with the woman saying that she knows the Messiah is coming. Jesus then confronts her with the truth about himself, and tell her that He is the Messiah.

Full of new faith, the woman returns to her people, so much transformed by her encounter with Jesus that despite having been an outcast they accept her and listen to her, she tells them, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah can he?’

Later in the chapter, we are told that many people believed in Jesus because of the testimony of this unnamed Samaritan woman.

Each of us, has at some time been drawn to our Lord, we have entered into relationship with him. Each of us, like the Samaritan woman, are far from perfect, we all have spots and blemishes in our past that we would rather forget about, but Jesus accepts us as we are, he does not condemn us, he does not criticize us, but enters into relationship with us, and he offers us the very best things in life, he offers us living water, living water that will not only wash away the mistakes of our past, but re-create us and then nourish and sustain us into the future.

But there is more. We then in love and gratitude, like the Samaritan woman, feel compelled to take that same living water to our community, so that they too may enter into relationship with Jesus, so that their lives too may be made complete.

That is ministry, and that is what ordination sets us apart to do.

We the broken, sinful people of God, healed and strengthened by God, reach out in love to others to share that living water.

Today, we as the people of God, bishops, priests, deacons, laity, gather to set apart,  Sue, Andrew, Jonathan, Charlie, James, Jeffrey, Anne, Nisher, Monica, George, David, Christopher, Matthew, Mark, Paul, Owen, Fiona, June, Sharne, Kuncoro, Lachlan, David, and Emily to follow in the steps of that unnamed Samaritan woman.

Like her, none of them is perfect, like her they all need the Living Water to wash over them and to sustain them, and like her they are all compelled by God’s over whelming love and generosity to offer their lives in God’s service. This is not an easy choice to make, at times it will mean taking risks, leaving the safety of community behind, it might mean losing friends, it will mean turning away from the false God’s of our age, money, prestige, popularity, and it will mean following in the footsteps of Jesus the Christ wherever they may lead.

We their colleagues, family, friends and community support and uphold them in this new ministry and we pray for them as they take this momentous step in faith and go back to their communities to bring them the Good News.