Bishop Brain draws on Paul's experiences in sermon to new priests

Ten men and eight women ordained as priests over the weekend

PHOTO: Janine Eastgate

By Chris Shearer

November 24 2019Bishop of Bendigo Matt Brain has called on the diocese’s newest priests to “begin like you want to become” during their ordination ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 23 November.

The ten men and eight women were ordained as priests by Archbishop Philip Freier following Bishop Brain’s sermon, which focused on 2 Corinthians 4.

Bishop Brain said that during their pre-ordination retreat, the group had been spending a lot of time on 2 Corinthians 4, in which he says Paul “unpacks the life of a pastor”.

He said there were three main points from this text for the ordinands: discovering their place, their posture and their power.

“The first words of chapter four in 2 Corinthians talk about the reality of our place, as pastors, as those who are drawn to the work of God, and that is that there is the real likelihood that we will lose heart,” he said.

He added that while Paul wasn’t losing heart as he wrote, it stood to reason that there was a “real likelihood that losing heart was a danger”.

“For Paul there were many reasons for losing heart, not least the context within which he ministered … friends, our context is not so far from Paul’s. We live in a world where there are so many alternatives. So many bright and shiny things, or so many other even seemingly coherent ways of understanding this world that it is easy to lose heart, not least because those whom and amongst whom we seek to minister find other things so much more attractive.”

But, he said, “just like Paul, that is our place if we wish to be joined in the ministry of God”.

Their posture, he said, needed to be both apostolic and authentic.

“Our posture is one where we are being invited to not only be sent by the author but to be the author of our faith, which then means we can be open,” he said.

The power, Bishop Brain said, was the treasure in clay jars mentioned by Paul, “an artefact of God’s grace and mercy to us”.  

“A treasure that is an artefact of God’s mercy, that can transform our lives from being inward focused and consuming of ourselves to open and outwards, able to be passed on to others so that they might thrive and live …

“Our power gives us the capacity to inhabit weakness as a way of life, not as a doormat, but as a humble servant, durable, even as the cracks in that clay jar display the treasure more brightly.”

These lessons from 2 Corinthians 4 would help the new priests on their journeys, he said.

“So as you stand at the beginning of a new lap of life and ministry, begin as you want to become; thankful, full of love for Jesus, and fully appreciate that you are but a jar of clay that holds a great treasure.”