By the Rev. Jim Shoulak, Deacon
Each of us was created for a purpose, and it involves being in service to other people. I am reminded by the words of John Henry Newman: “God has created me to do some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.” How is God prompting me to serve? What is my mission?
From The Ordination of a Deacon rite: “God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.” What have I done today that was in service to God’s people? Whatever answer I come up with, I always know in my heart that I can do more.
Discernment for a religious vocation can take a few twists and turns. In my case, I was initially recommended by my parish discernment team to pursue a path toward the priesthood. Just a couple of months later, at a retreat for discerners sponsored by the Episcopal Church, I was asked to consider being a deacon. We can’t look at discernment as an “I win” venture or be so arrogant as to think we know the mind and heart of God. Discernment—true discernment—happens when we open our hearts and minds and lives to God’s stirrings in us. . . . And when we leave our egos at home.
From The Ordination of a Deacon rite: “As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them.” Being an example to others—in any field—is a tough gig, but it’s much more critical when one has been raised up publically to represent the Church. May we all find strength for the journey!
II. For the choice of fit persons for the ministry. O God, you led your holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that your Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of your kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen + Book of Common Prayer, p. 245
The date stamp on my gallon of milk reads: “19 Oct”. Our religious vows have no such expiration date. We’re in this for the long haul; we’re lifers. That said, let us support and encourage one other as we seek clarification each day in the ways God continues to call us.
From The Ordination of a Deacon rite: “You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship.” Oh, Lord, make my actions back up my words, and may both be a comfort to others.
Morning Offering by Jim Shoulak: Jesus, prophet and guide—Be with me today in my thoughts, words and deeds. May my thoughts be rooted in purity, May my words be blessed with clarity, May my deeds be overflowing with charity, That others may come to know you better—by seeing you in me.
From The Ordination of a Deacon rite: “You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” May we, guided by the Spirit, never forget our prophetic role!
What a lovely and comforting prayer . . . For Guidance. O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen + Book of Common Prayer, p. 852
It is vital that we surrender our will to God. For it is only in the giving up of our preferences, our egos and our wants that we receive mercy, blessing and guidance. God, take my heart and soul, my mind and voice, my hands and feet, my life. Let my heart show Your Love to the world.
“Only those who dare to Fail Greatly can ever Achieve Greatly.”—Robert F. Kennedy
Francis of Assisi has been credited with the quote: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use the words when necessary.” Though there’s no record of him ever having said or written it, the fact remains that it’s an ingenious and challenging theme for any Christian life … especially one lived as a member of the clergy.
“We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night . . .”—unknown
From The Ordination of a Deacon rite: “At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.” And this can be performed no better way than in the literal and figurative washing of another’s feet.
It was my privilege to meet Bishop Dom Helder Camara on two occasions. It was he who said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.” I continue to try to live out the spirit of that message through my diaconal service. Sure, we’ll be misunderstood by some, shunned by others, and persecuted, too. . . . But really, is that all that’s stopping us?
From The Ordination of a Deacon rite: “Will you look for Christ in all others, being ready to help and serve those in need?” We really don’t have to do much to notice others in need. It pretty much begins by opening our eyes.
I am in awe of inspiration! Praise the God who sends angels to whisper in our ears.
III. For all Christians in their vocation. Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of you holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen + Book of Common Prayer, p. 245
In our hectic lives, it’s difficult to slow down long enough to listen for the whisperings of the Holy Spirit to our hearts. Spirit, soothe me, still me, surround me, embrace me, calm my soul.
Jackie Robinson said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Seems like a pretty good slogan for the diaconate, doesn’t it?
In one class at the seminary, we were asked to scratch an image into special coated paper. My art represented all of the tools we need to be of service to others: the foot washer’s water jug, bowl and towel.
There are many times I don’t speak up when I know I should, because I’m afraid or not sure of my words. I’ve always liked this inspirational message by Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers in the 1970s.
Every time I think about my ordination in the summer of 2010, I can still feel the Bishop’s hands on my head, commissioning me — challenging me, commanding me — to do good works in the name of God…