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Bishop Sarah's Chrism Eucharist Sermon

You can read Bishop Sarah's Chrism Eucharist Sermon below:

Renewal of Ordination Vows

I feel deeply the honour, responsibility and the joy of being able to lead us in worship at this Chrism Eucharist and my prayer has been that this morning will enrich and restore and enable each of you in your own love and following of Jesus and in your shepherding of your people though these demanding yet life giving days of following Jesus – through the guts and stuff where all the best and worst of us as humanity are laid out through so clearly. I have been ordained for 26 years and the Chrism Eucharist has always been a source of encouragement and hope for me. If you asked me what all those Bishop’s actually said over those years, I honestly can’t remember, - do you know the feeling- but I know enough has been given in word and sacrament to call me back to myself, to fix my gaze on Jesus and be able to move into Maundy Thursday afresh. May that be so for you this day.  


This Chrism Eucharist is special because as we gather together, deacons, priests and bishops, and those with us ,look around and see one another - we see who God has called, ordained, for this time, in this diocese, in this moment, to care for and lead the Church in all our diversity – not anybody else – you and me, here, now and to be reminded it is a shared calling. In the Liturgy of Ordination of Bishop’s, it says

As Chief Pastors, it is their duty to share with their fellow presbyters the oversight of the Church, speaking in the name of God and expounding the gospel of salvation’.

We see this lived out in every licensing, in parishes across our Diocese, ‘receive the cure of souls which is both mine and yours’ – Claire Gibbs at the Escombe Group. We have each other and we need each other, even when we don’t agree, when struggle together. Part of the shape of the call next Bishop Durham the flourishing, well being of the ordained, clergy will be there.


Sometimes the focus in the Chrism Eucharist on the ordained can feel exclusive of laity but at its heart it isn’t – it is the opportunity given to the ordained us to renew our ordination vows to Jesus,  those vows which remind us who we are and what we are for - that we have been set apart to serve ’the people of God, who are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, the royal priesthood, - our particular ministries are to equip and form the people ‘to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom’. The ordinal full of resonances of the holy week, reminding  deacons, priests and bishops before the words of ordination that the people of God are Christ’s own flock bought by the shedding of his blood on the cross’, people made ‘in God’s image and likeness’, ‘Christ beloved bride’.   Not easily believed in our congregations – say things like that Sundays look uncomfortable. Yet it is true - we are all so deeply loved in Jesus.

Jars of Clay

Of course, we all know how experience how hard ministry is – where ever set, how difficult relationships can be, and how different it can feel in from the high words of the ordination service of royal priesthoods can be and partly why we return every year take a deep breath and go again.   

Apostle Paul in our reading, holds onto this paradox of glory in Christ and clay of our humanity - glory & clay - that dwell together, that we are. He contrasts the Sinai Covenant of Law, Moses veiled face protecting the people of Israel from the reflecting glory of the presence of Yahweh, glory which fades with the New Covenant, glory which is the ministry of the Spirit which is the presence of God of Glory in the heart of the believer  - permanent, unfading. Now ‘all of us with unveiled faces seeing the glory of the Lord as reflected in a mirror are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, this is from the Lord the Spirit’.  So, the presence of God, the reality of Jesus Christ is now seen in the faces of his people, and apparently when we gaze at our brothers and sisters in Christ what we see reflected back to us as in a mirror is the glory of God the Holy Spirit within us and when our brothers and sister in Christ look upon us they see reflected back glory of God in Jesus Christ. Deeply challenging.

This was the scripture set for the day when I went to a church not in this diocese in pastoral breakdown.  No one thanked me for my sermon at the door – Vicar and very disgruntled PCC members could no longer see anything of Christ in the other, totally lost sight, couldn’t hold on to each made in the image and likeness of God’.  I think it is why pastoral breakdown is so painful, people leave churches, relationships are strained, struggles of LLF and whatever follows LLF , treat each other badly, deep down we know we should see Jesus in the face of the other and we end up lose sight of ourselves as precious as well. Undermines all witness.     

Fortunately, the Apostle Paul, who of course had hard relationships at Corinth, knowing the struggle for himself moves onto other image, ‘treasure in clay jays’ – which we find more easy to identify with, God’s life, Spirit in cracked pots, dull earthen wear with shafts of light, wonder streaking out. Holy Week shows us so much glory and clay in the lives of Jesus and the disciples to help us on the way.  I think we are not to be afraid of being clay jars but also, we need to hold onto the glory, God’s life not settle for anything less.

I believe that if we were to see ourselves now from the perspective of the Lord Jesus, heavenly host, see glory of life of God within us, See living treasure.   

Bearing the Load  

This is ministry, holding both the glory and the clay – our own and others.  Apostle Paul says ‘since we it is by God’s mercy we have this ministry wed do not lose heart’.   

As sponsoring Bishop, I stand every year and I see men and women, young and older, give their lives to this calling, the calling we share, and it is beautiful and so hard. Then those deeply merciful and compassionate and hopeful words are spoken,

‘You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength but only by the grace and power of God –  pray heart may daily be enlightened, understanding scriptures enlightened-  Parry earnestly gift Holy spirit’ – Veni Creator is sung – Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire ‘ .

Today, this Chrism Eucharist, God the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life, fills this Cathedral, give life to these words, ; pray earnestly for the gift of the Holy Spirit to renew you in your calling, look out for the affirmation and gifts through these next days, use the oils bring light to others,  and if today feels more clay then glory seek out someone else today, a friend , a colleague, one of the Cathedral Canons and pray – don’t go home without speaking to another and  know you are precious in God’s sight.



First published on: 28th March 2024
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