Father Lee Nelson Ordained
Canon John Heidt, the canon theologian of the diocese of Fort Worth, delivered a moving and thought-provoking sermon at the ordination service. Here is an excerpt:
There are only three things your priest can do that no-one else can do. He can take those little pieces of tasteless bread and small sips of wine and turn them into the body and blood of your God; in God’s name he can shower divine blessings upon you, and he can forgive you your sins.
At first this sounds great, but when you come to think of it, what are these things but lunacy at best and sacrilege at worst? With the ancient Jews we want to cry out, "This is blasphemy; who but God can forgive sins?" And we ask ourselves, how dare my priest think that only he can bless us when our own children say such a divine blessing before our family meals? And who but a superstitious charlatan or deranged magician can possibly think that he can turn bread and wine into God’s body and blood?
We ask our priest: "Who do you think you are, anyway, a little God, another Jesus Christ?" And, as hard as it may be to believe and more difficult to understand, the answer must always be a resounding yes. Your priest is another Christ, what we call an alter Christus. He is the local embodiment of the presence of God among you - an icon, a window into the court of heaven, a walking sacrament of Jesus Christ.
Today we are making Lee Nelson one of these walking sacraments. And I can tell you right now that he is not going to do a very good job of it. I know this, because none of us do a very good job of it. The outward sign is smeared by our sins; the vision is clouded, the window misted over. You are right to demand much of your priest but do not expect much in return. He has nothing to give you but God; nothing to do for you, but give you back to Him. His task is to place you upon the hard surface of God’s sacrificial altar, and then lead you in lifting up your hearts for God to see. For the world this will seem like not very much, but for us it is the gate of heaven and the way into the salvation of our souls.
The entire sermon may be found on the diocesan web site here.