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Recapturing solemnity

Today, our church had an ordination service for a new pastor. I have seen a few ordinations before, which generally amounted to the pastor laying hands on and praying over the new guy then giving a quick, “Heeeeeere’s Pastor!” And then the offering, the announcements, yada yada yada. Gotta keep the show moving. Or they did it at the end of service, but we gotta hustle because the children’s ministry workers are reaching their breaking point. (If you can’t tell, my church experience has been in churches with very…casual liturgies.)

This was a very different experience. The entire service was dedicated to the ordination. The teaching was on the calling and duty of pastors. There were multiple testimonies to his qualifications and characters. He took vows, and we as a church took vows. Then there were snacks. It was a reverential, holy joyous experience. There was the moment when a couple of the pastors were smelling a book from the pulpit, but, for the most part, it was solemn and holy, or as solemn as contemporary Protestant U.S. churches get. The service really drove home the great responsibility and duty that pastors have, and reminded me that I need to keep my pastors daily in my prayers. It communicated a high view of ordination, of pastors, and of the church as a whole.

Our hymn for the month of February is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”  This hymn is from the 4th century and was sung as the Eucharist was presented and the lyrics certainly communicate the holiness of the sacrament.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
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King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav’nly food.

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that one of the things our modern church is lacking is awe and wonder of God. We have very little solemnity or reverence. Of course, it is human nature to correct errors by going to far the other way. The veil was torn, we are — as a church — the priesthood of believers. Jesus is our friend and big brother, and we do not require intermediaries to come to him with our every need and thought. And he welcomes us gladly. Much of our current liturgy celebrates and encourages that glorious truth. But he is also the Son of God, by whom all things are created. The signs and sacraments he gives his church — baptism, communion, ordination, even singing praises — are holy things. God draws us near to him; we step into his presence. We would do well to remember that we stand on holy ground.

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