On Saturday I attended an ordination service at the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Washington, D.C. As I sat in the immense gothic building I found myself meditating on the name of the cathedral, it's architecture, and our purpose there that day.
I love ordinations for the same reason that I love volcanos: they're glowing bright red with the hotness of newly created, creative substance. If you've ever seen a lava flow that moves into the ocean, you know the hiss of bright white steam as the lava quickly cools and hardens into land. The same effect, I imagine, is present with the Holy Spirit when we ordain deacons, priests, and bishops. There's a brightness, a transformation, and then there's something new.
And contemplating this during the service I realized that this kind of energy is not temporary. It is the ongoing and holy work of God's people.
The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul has two massive towers, one named for Peter and one named for Paul.
Tangent: The one named for Paul has ties to my former employer, Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, having been given by Eli Lilly, a former vestryman of that parish, and one who ensured its future. But that's another story.
The two towers of the saints -- one who confessed Jesus, and one who was converted by Jesus -- flank the entrance.
Peter confessed, "you are the Christ" (Mark 8:29) Paul asked, "who are you, Lord?" (Acts 26:15)
And the Church itself springs out of this ongoing tension between those who confess and those who ask. It surely exists for both.
Liturgical Kalendar Tangent: Incidentally, it's no coincidence that these two Epiphanies, Peter's confession and Paul's conversion, fall one week apart on the calendar, and both occur during the Epiphany season. And the ecumenical observance of the octave is known as The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. A further suggestion that these two poles offer something definitive about the nature of the church.
In her sermon on Saturday, Bishop Marian Budde charged the ordinands to devote some of their time to the "new". A corrective to the Episcopal tradition which can easily be faulted for leaning more toward Peter than toward Paul.
If we do that, we fall down.
So I don't mean getting all wishy-washy and hippy-dippy and saying "Jesus is whoever you want him to be, man", but really living in that tension between our Creed and our Catechism.
Who do we believe that Jesus is? And what answer do we give to those who ask?
More importantly, as charged by Bishop Budde, how do we hear the questions being asked beyond our church walls?
If my architectural reading of the cathedral in Washington is any model for ministry, then we must continually form that sacred space that consists of those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and those who ask the question, "who are you?"
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