St Mary’s, Abingdon, MD—Feast of James DeKoven
My friends, I bring you greetings from the clergy and people of the Diocese of Springfield. Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. I am delighted to be here, on what I believe is my fourth visit to the state of Maryland in my more than 66 years on this planet, and I am grateful for the warm hospitality I have already received from St Mary’s Church, and, in advance of the occasion, from Bishops Sutton and Knudsen. It is truly good to be here.
This is a happy occasion. It’s happy because it is a celebration of wholeness. It is certainly a celebration of wholeness for Don. Many years ago, Don answered a call from God, a call to serve as a priest, a priest who serves as a living and walking icon of Jesus the Good Shepherd leading his flock to green pastures and still waters, proclaiming good news in their midst, and breaking the eucharistic bread for them, the gift of God that regularly reconstitutes them as the people of God. That vocation, for a litany of reasons, was interrupted, derailed. Tonight, we are putting it back on the rails. When Don was ordained, an indelible mark, an indelible character, was conferred on him. He had answered God’s call, as Isaiah did—“Here I am, Lord. Send me.” Even though circumstances conspired to derail him from that ministry, Don has never not been a priest since that day. Now that ministry, that character, that mark, is once again visible for all to see. God is taking something that had been cast down and raising it up, as we pray in that luminous collect associated with ordinations that is so connected to the heart of the gospel, and the heart of the Church’s life, that we also hear it on Good Friday and again, a day later, at the Great Vigil of Easter. Yes, something that had been cast down is being raised up; something that had grown old is being made new, and our faith is that, in God’s good plan, it will be a thread in the cosmic tapestry of redemption in which all things are being brought to perfection through him by whom all things were made.
Tonight is also a celebration of wholeness for the Church—formally for the Diocese of Springfield, effectually for the Diocese of Maryland and for this parish. Don’s ministry is a sacrament—a symbol that actually conveys what it symbolizes—a sacrament of holy order. The God whom we serve is a God of order, not of chaos, and even while the Spirit is like the wind that blows where it will, the Church has, from its earliest days, been an ordered community. In the New Testament itself, we find apostles and deacons and bishops and presbyters. Order that is necessary for the people of God to be “built up in every way into Christ,” as St Paul write to the Colossians. As of tonight’s celebration of wholeness, there is now one more shepherd on duty, ordering the Church, tending the flock of Christ, leading the baptized faithful into that which connects the human soul to the One who is both its source and its destiny
Wholeness for Don, wholeness for the Church, and, finally, wholeness for the world. Yes, tonight is also a celebration of wholeness for the world, because the priestly people of God—a “kingdom of priests from every language, tribe, people, and nation,” as St John describes it in the Book of Revelation—the priestly people of God is energized by what we do here tonight to stand in the gap between the needs of the world and the loving justice of God. Father Donald Schranz stands with the other presbyters among whom he serves and leads the baptized faithful in shining God’s light into the world’s darkness, speaking God’s pardon and forgiveness into the world’s guilt, injecting God’s truth into the world’s deception, extending the community of the Holy Trinity into the world’s alienation, and declaring God’s victory over sin and death into the word’s despair.
James De Koven, on whose feast day we are worshiping this evening, was a tireless seeker after wholeness. He contended for what were known in that time, about 150 years ago, as “Catholic privileges” in the Episcopal Church. These are things that we pretty much now take for granted, as if they have never gone away; things like the Eucharist as the main liturgy on Sunday, reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, sacramental confession, vestments, incense, candles, and the like. The word “catholic” comes from the Greek expression kata holos, according to the entirety, according to the whole. Don, I can think of no worthier patron under whom to place your reclaimed ministry of priesthood, your reclaimed ministry of making whole, now itself made whole.
Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.