The Rev. Tom Duplessie’s Sermon for Sunday, October 20, 2012
Sermon for Sunday, October 20. 2012
St. Margaret’s. Belfast, Maine
Talk on the Deaconate
Good Morning. Normally, when I stand at this Lectern, I share a reflection with you, on today’s readings. Today I will not share a reflection. Instead, I will give a talk on the Deaconate.
I have been serving as a Deacon at St. Margaret’s for about 6 months, and accepted my assignment to this parish, on Ash Wednesday of this year. To my knowledge, I believe that I am the first Deacon to be assigned to serve as a Deacon to this parish of St. Margaret’s. As you know, John Arrison is in the Deacon Formation Program, is now a Candidate for the Deaconate, and probably will Ordained a Deacon next Spring. So it seems appropriate that I do this presentation on the Deaconate–what a Deacon is, and does.
But before I speak to you about the Deaconate, let me make a few comments about today’s Gospel. In the beginning of the today’s Gospel. Look at Jesus’s response, near the end of today’s Gospel reading.: “you know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognized as their rulers lord it over them, and great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant., and whoever wishes to be first among you must be a slave to all. For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man, and says that he has come serve, not be served.
Jesus was not meeting the Apostles, nor his followers, or the Jewish people’s expectations of their Messiah. He was not going to be the King of Israel, he was not going to be their leader, and overthrow the Romans, those Gentile occupiers. And He didn’t come to Lord it over others, but to serve others.
And this was not the first time that Jesus spoke to his disciples about being a servant, about serving others. On the night that Jesus instituted what we refer to as the Last Supper, the last meal that he had with His deciples , the night before He was crucified, after the supper was over, he washed the Apostles feet. Listen to these words that Christ said, after he had washed the Apostles feet. “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done” (John 23: 12 to 15) Jesus concretely demonstrated his call to serve others.
In the night of the Last Supper, Jesus concretely demonstrated his call to serve others by His example.
Listen to these words from Luke, that sound similar to today’s Gospel. A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them. “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But it is not so with you ; rather greatest among you must become like a the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. . For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves. It is not the one at the table. But I am among you as one who serves.
So you be asking yourselves why I am I reading these particular New Testament passages. I am citing these passages as a lead in to my presentation on the Deaconate. Like Jesus, a Deacon is called to serve others. A Deacon receives a call from God, a calling, just like a teacher or doctor or nurse feels calling to a particular vocation
As a Deacon, we are , “to be a sign and symbol to you, to remind you of Jesus’s message to us: all of us are called to serve others-not just the members of this church, but to serve all of God’s people-the churched and unchurched.
Please turn to page 543 in our Prayer Book. Listen to the words that the Bishop reads to the candidates for the Deaconate, as part of a Deacon’s Ordination service.
Note these words: ” special ministry of servanthood, directly under your bishop”. The Bishop reminds the candidate for the Deacon of the call to serve others. Also note that a Deacon is under the Bishop’s direction. As our “boss’, the bishop, he assigns a Deacon to a parish, (usually the parish that the Deacon has requested assignment) And by Canon Law, church law, a deacon is required to submit a report to the Bishop, once a year, of that Deacon’s ministries in the past year.
If you listen to the words that I just read to you, from the Examination, for a Deacon, a Deacon is expected, is called to demonstrate Christ’s love for other, by word and example
Sometime, a Deacon is referred to as the bridge between the world and the church, and he or she is expected to bring the needs of God’s people, to the attention of the church. Quite often, the Deacon does this when they lead the Prayers of the People, at the time of Eucharist service.
Like all Deacons, I participate in the Eucharistic service. As a Deacon, I set the table, set the chalice, patten, the bread and wine on the altar, for the Priest to concentrate. In a way, think of the Deacon as the Waiter, at the Altar. In fact, the stole that a Deacon wears is symbolic. It is our waiter’s towel, which we wear as we serve at the Altar.)
At the end of the Eucharistic service, the Deacon does the dismissal. In effect, we send you out the church, in to the world. And we remind you of Christ’s mandate, message to us:
When we may say “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord”–to remind you that all of us called to serve others, at home, where we live, where work.
I am called to be a Permanent Deacon. I, like John Arrison are called to serve others. But we are not called to be Ordained a Priest. On the other hand, Sheila Seekins, our Seminarian, eventually will be Ordained a Priest. For a temporary period of time, Sheila will be ordained a Transitional Deacon, before her ordination to the Priesthood.
If you look at our bulletin, you will notice that I have the title of Rev. before my name. That is because, I and all Permanent Deacons are considered clergy, by the Episcopal Church. And the IRS. So Martha and I are members of the clergy. We are colleagues, just as other Priest and Deacons are. However, we Deacons do not receive a salary.
What you may not know is the Order of Deacons began very early on in the history of Christianity. Listen to these words from the Book of Acts: Chapter 6: 1-4: “Now in those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenist complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and the serving of the word.”
Part of the tradition carried over from the Jewish religion to the early church, was the expectation that the Christian Community would care for the widows and orphans. There was no safety net, like we have now. As the church expanded, and the Apostles became very busy preaching and teaching, they were not able to keep up the responsibilities of caring for the widows and orphans. So seven members of the community were called, and anointed, were expected to care for the food distributions and widows and orphans. The church calls these annointed people Deacons. So the early church, there were Apostles, Bishops, and Deacons before their were Priest.
Deacons still continue that responsibility to serve the weak, the poor, the weak, and the lonely.
So what you see me do at the Eucharist, is only part of my duties as a Deacon. Very few Deacons are paid to be Deacons, so most of us are employed part-time or full-time, if we are not retired from regular employment. Most Deacons carry on their duty to serve, on their own time.
Some Deacons volunteer at a soup kitchen, are Chaplains for Hospice, or at a prison, and co-ordinate an education program, such Education for Ministry.,or co-ordinate a parish Eucharistic Visitor program.
For me personally, I was fortunate to be able to combine my employment position with my Deaconal ministry. Until I recently retired, I was a Medical Social Worker for a home health and hospice agency, so I was also able to do my Deaconal ministry by serving the chronically ill, the terminally ill, and in many cases the elderly, the lonely and the poor, during my working hours.
Now that I am retired, I do volunteer work at the Belfast Soup Kitchen, help at the Food Cupboard. I have just completed training with Restorative Justice Program as a Mentor, and eventually will be working with one of the prisoners at the Re-entry Center.
So a Deacon’s ministries vary, from one Deacon to another. As our Bishop Lane reminded me, a couple of years ago;,”Tom, you will always be a Deacon, because you are called by God to serve others”. He also said, that regardless of Deacon’s specific ministry, that we called to do, we are called to be a sign and sign and symbol to others, of Christ’s servant ministry of His own call to serve others.
To conclude this talk, let me say those dismissal words that I will repeat again, at the end of this service. “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord”. Amen
NOTE: Rev. Tom Duplessie is a Deacon in the Diocese of Maine, and was ordained a Permanent Deacon, on June 19, 2004, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bangor. He has served as a Deacon for St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Palmyra, Maine and All Saints, Skowhegan, Maine, then for St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bangor, Maine, before he was assigned to St.Margaret’s, Belfast in the Spring of 2012.