We have reached the halfway point of our Holy Week journey that leads us from the Palm Sunday experience, through the agony in the garden and death on the Cross, to that final moment of victory when we realize that He is not here, he has risen!
Part of the Holy Week journey is to stop for a moment in the Upper Room and witness that moment, that intimate moment between Jesus and those who had been with him from the very start of his earthly ministry. Jesus shares a meal with them and then gives himself to them symbolically through the sharing of the bread and the cup. He reminds them that he is ushering in a new covenant relationship between them and God. A relationship that is no longer reliant on sacrifice but love, love for God and love for one another.
Growing up in my Roman Catholic faith, Holy Week was also a time when the priests would gather together with their bishop to consecrate the holy oils to be used for healings and other rites and rituals of the church, but also to renew their vows that were made at their ordination. Those vows are their covenant relationship with the bishop, the church and with the God that has called them. The call to the ordained life is a call to serve God through the service of others, and as such we share a covenant of love, service, and support.
This July I will celebrate 14 years of ordained ministry, and during Holy Week I always recall the vows or promises I made at my ordination. I was ordained in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and as such, we did not pronounce vows so to speak, but there are promises that are implied in the service of ordination. Since becoming an authorized minister in the United Church of Christ, I have had an opportunity to meditate on promises or covenant that is made during the ordination service and it is those promises that I renew not only during Holy Week but every week.
- Do you, with the church throughout the world, hear the word of God in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and do you accept the word of God as the rule of Christian faith and practice? I do.
- Do you promise to be diligent in your private prayers and in reading the scriptures, as well as in the public duties of your office? I will, relying on God’s grace.
- Will you be zealous in maintaining both the truth of the gospel and the peace of the church, speaking in truth and love? I will, relying on God’s grace.
- Will you be faithful in preaching and teaching the gospel, in administering the sacraments and rites of the church, and in exercising pastoral care and leadership? I will, relying on God’s grace.
- Will you keep silent all confidences shared with you? I will, relying on God’s grace.
- Will you seek to regard all people with equal love and concern and undertake to minister impartially to the needs of all? I will, relying on God’s grace.
- Do you accept the faith and order of the United Church of Christ; and will you, as an ordained minister in this communion, ecumenically reach out toward all who are in Christ and show Christian love to people of other faiths and of no faith? I will, relying on God’s grace.
These promises bind me in covenant with others for service to the people God has called me to but also to service to the wider church and the world.