On TitusONENine, my dear music-loving and wordsmithing priest friend from South Carolina, John Barr, has written beautifully about the consecration of their new bishop last Saturday. If you read this post, John, get yourself over here for a visit to the Ben Nevis.........
There are two moments from Saturday’s marvelous consecration which marked me most and stand truest to my heart—neither of which would ever have been envisioned by the planners as “big hit moments.” The first was standing under the huge tent in front of the cathedral with tangled battalions of deaneries, the place aglow with catcalls and glad reunions and silliness and snarled vestments. What was really happening? It struck me as a supreme time of expectant hopefulness. Life in Christ rides on the rails of relationships, and I stopped to look around and was hit by the intense joy of being together, the gratitude of getting to be with these folks. The wait in the wind and cold for over an hour could have gone on and on. God is in control; Jesus has risen; he won’t go back into the tomb; this is fun. On into Galilee.
And the second was this: Bishop Mark was well on his way in the Eucharistic Prayer, his first celebration ever as our Episcopal leader. Somewhere on his way through those words that silence happened. It was the sort of silence which you know immediately is unplanned, which says something’s not right; hurry up; the world is about to crash. But no, it went on. Then Mark said: Where are we? He had lost his place. I heard a quick, gentle laugh. It was not the laughter of derision or embarrassment, but the laughter of relief. I immediately thought how many times I had lost my place, and I loved Mark even more already. But then a priest kneeling beside me whispered: This is good. And an invisible window of grace opened. Somewhere in Auden’s Christmas Oratorio the lines came to me (I had to look them up): Though written by thy children with a smudged and crooked line, thy Word is ever legible.
That was the truest bridge over which Christ’s grace crossed to me on my Saturday. I loved all the pageantry, the color of bishops processing, the long procession of international visitors, the seamless planning, incredible music; I loved the guys marching in who looked like they came out of a Dickens novel—that we offer our best. Yet strangely, it was not our best that got me, but the reality that God takes the flawed and smudged lines of our crooked witness and writes his Word through us. He loves it when we get lost and then finds us. Truly in our weakness, Christ makes himself strong, even on Consecration day. I will always remember it kneeling there, lost and found, laughter and grace.
The Rev. Rev. Dr. John Barr III is rector, Church of the Holy Comforter, Sumter, South Carolina