nearly, almost, sort of, thinking about getting ready for another summer session in the Advanced Degree Program at The School of Theology at Sewanee: The University of the South. This year, I’ll be taking classes from two visiting professors: The Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner from Duke will be co-teaching a class on preaching the feast days with The Rev. Dr. William Brosend and The Rev. Dr. Louis Weil, retired from Church Divinity School of the Pacific who will be teaching a liturgics class on ordination and the Eucharist.
In my reading last night, came the topic of what is absolutely required for a valid ordination with further discussion on the whole Apostolic Succession dealio. Over and over again in these readings, it is suggested that for ordination, the laying on of hands with prayer is the sole requirement of a proper ordination. As one who fought against the ritual of anointing my hands at my priestly ordination (while ultimately finding it very moving), this makes sense to me. Before the clericalization of the Middle Ages and the direct associate of the priesthood with the Eucharist, it was the practice of the Church that the laying of hands was “a sign of the Spirit invoked in blessing, dedication, or absolution” (Sthulman, p. 23).
This is all well and good, or as an Anglophile might say “meet and right,” until we reach further back on the Day of Pentecost and hear the story of God setting apart the 70 elders to assist Moses with the leadership of the Hebrews in the wilderness. The way the story reads, it can be assumed that as the Lord took some of the spirit away from Moses, something like hands were laid upon the 68 who came out to the tent of meeting, but then there is the curious case of Eldad and Medad, two elders who stayed behind. It seems as though the spirit just sort of plopped down upon them out of thin air. I’m sure the liturgical scholars of Moses’ day were pulling their beards out trying to come up with an appropriate response, but it is Moses that gets the best and final word.
“Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets!”
Hands laid or not, the Spirit blows where she will and rests upon any with whom God has found favor. Sometimes, it is neat and tidy and fits in the Diocesan discernment process. Sometimes, it is like a mighty rushing wind and fits nobody’s time table whatsoever. I love the story of Eldad and Medad because I love that God works how God works whether the liturgical scholars agree or not.