The Rev. Canon Connor Lynn
60th Anniversary of Ordination
December 26, 20166 ~ St. Mary’s, Palms, CA
“Loving God, be in our hearts, that we can be open to those we love, to those we share ministry with and to the whole human family.” Amen.
Connor, allow me to begin by thanking you for your presence among as a card carrying member of the Order of Melchizedek for the last 60 years. Why I’m standing here in this pulpit delivering this homily is beyond me. But I’ve learned from you that the Spirit is usually up to something. So when Fr. Vincent asked me to preach I figured that I should just say yes and get on with it. And it’s my gift to you for the gift of your friendship and guidance.
However, I can’t continue without asking you – does the name Colo mean anything to you?
Colo was the first gorilla born in captivity. Do you have any idea of what you and Colo share in common? I’ll give you a hint – it’s a date.
December 22, 1956. Colo was born in the Cleveland Zoo and 4, 943 miles away in Bolahun, Liberia a young 25 year old Connor Lynn was ordained to the priesthood. Every life, every story, every ministry has a beginning.
Liberia. Tim Butcher writes in “Chasing the Devil: A Journey through sub-Saharan Africa: In the Footstpes of Graham Green:
Of all the anarchic and war-torn African nations, none is more forbidding than Liberia, the land that nurtured child soldiers, the violent trade in “blood diamonds,” even ritual murder. Graham Greene, in search of extreme adventure, ventured through its dense jungles to write the travel classic Journey Without Maps; and three-quarters of a century later, Tim Butcher decided to follow Greene’s footsteps, only to find the path even more ominous and overgrown than in his predecessor’s day. Among the devils he encounters are masked sorcerers whose magical powers depend on cannibalism and missionaries long forgotten.
He describes Graham Greens party as having problems with the route on the other side of the boarder in Lofa county the northern region of Liberia. The Greenes drove from Kailahun towards the frontier and then managed to trek all the way to the Liberian village of Bolahun, where they were given sanctuary at a mission station run by the Order of the Holy Cross, a community of Anglican monks from America.
When preparing his book, Mr. Butcher wrote to the Superior of the Holy Cross Fathers advising that he would be returning to the mission. He received a letter stating that the facilities had been turned over to the local church and then the ravages of civil war took a great toll. He went on to say that unfortunately I do not have any way of contacting Bolahun…I’m sorry I can’t be of much help. Blessings and safety in your travels. Go with God.
Connor, in describing your time in Africa you have often said that its people taught you more about maturing in faith, radical hospitality, and Christian witness than you gave to them. In today’s old testament lesson the prophet Isiah writes: Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. My friend, you have done just that in 60 years of ministry – not held back. Sixty years ago, you embraced your ordination vows, the gospel and Jesus’ spirit of enthusiasm and never looked back.
“Your voice has been heard preaching, teaching, and comforting; your hands baptizing, blessing, anointing, and absolving; your eyes seeing, smiling, caring, and crying; your ears listening, hearing, and understanding; your feet walking, walking, walking, walking to churches, classrooms, graduations, weddings, family gatherings, parish picnics, prisons, nursing homes, deathbeds, and gravesites. In all of these ways, and many more, you have made Jesus Christ present in ways more powerful than you will ever know.
The church has changed greatly over the last sixty years. It has had to learn that when people are in debilitating relationships and living in terrifying conditions that have nothing to do with canon law, divorce can be a nurturing and life giving act.
In the 60’s, we became divided over the Viet Nam war and the civil rights movement. It was a time when prophetic voices began to be heard…voices of men like Morey Samuels, Malcolm Boyd and Roger Wood. For the first time we asked ourselves “Are you running with me Jesus?”
We moved into a harsh decade of pressure to replace the beloved 1928 Book of Common Prayer. And then came the passing of the peace, which we love today, but back then, many went apoplectic when an unruly community invaded our old decorum.
We became enthralled by Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech. The Episcopal Church had a dream too. While some mainline churches became inward looking and self-protective we became more committed than ever and made it a new kind of jewel.
We struggled with woman’s ordination and the ordination of our LQBTQ brothers and sisters. And make no mistake about it – we will always struggle and alway be surprised at how our loving God chooses to break into our lives.
Our church has really tried to keep faith with Jesus’ astonishing insight: “Inasmuch as you have done it (whatever you have done, good or bad) to the least of these my brethren (the most downcast and troubled), you have done it to me.” Over time, our beloved Episcopal Church, which used to be sneered at as God’s “frozen chosen,” has become a leader in contemporary movements for justice, music and liturgy. And as always, our pastoral concerns inform and amend our doctrines.
Perhaps it can be said that living into our baptismal covenant, living the gospel and ordained life are extreme adventures and sometimes a journey without maps which lead us to unexpected places and unexpected conclusions.
Bonnie Anderson, former President of the House of Deputies in an address in Lodi, California wrote: “The real Jesus, the Jesus that died for us, the Jesus that gives us glimpses into our hearts and the hearts of others, the Jesus that draws us near even when we accuse him of leaving us, the real Jesus is doing things so unusual, so new, so outrageous, so scandalous every day that we have to open our hearts, we have to clean those scales from our eyes and ears. We have to watch carefully for him as he moves among and in us.”
“We have to really expect new truths to be revealed to us in unconventional, unexpected ways from unexpected, unconventional sources because Jesus is full of surprises. He turns things upside down. Watch out, expect miracles.
Connor, you have never assumed for a moment that yours was a priesthood of one. Perhaps what you really learned in Bolahun and have been sharing with us ever since is the knowledge that each of us shares in the priesthood of all believers and that in the community of saints, God has constructed his body such that we are all priests to one another. The Priesthood of all believers has more to do with the believer’s service than with an individual’s position or status. We are all believer-priests. We all stand equally before God. Such standing does not negate specific giftedness or calling. It rather enhances our giftedness as each one of us individually and collectively does his part to build the body of Christ. We are all priests. We are all responsible.”
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11-16
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
As you prepare to celebrate the Mass in a few moments I am reminded of what Thomas Merton said of the priesthood:
If you are afraid to love, never become a priest, never say Mass. The Mass will draw you down upon your soul a torrent of interior suffering which has only one function: to break you wide open and let everybody in the world into your heart. For when you begin to say Mass, the Spirit of God awakens like a giant inside you and bursts the locks of your private sanctuary. If you say Mass, you condemn your soul to the torrent of a love that is so vast and insatiable that you will never be able to bear it alone. That love is the love of the Heart of Jesus, burning within your own heart and bringing down upon you the huge weight of His compassion for all the sinners of the world. Connor, you are not alone.
Indeed every life, every story has a beginning and a purpose. Every day God’s people get to live their lives, reaffirm their story and take care of each other. In God’s eyes there are no endings – only beginnings.
Connor, your ministry in some ways has been an extreme adventure and like Graham Greene you’ve often had to travel without maps. Lucky for the church, lucky for us you never looked back. We wish you blessings and safety in your travels and ministry. Go with God, don’t stop now, and don’t hold back.
The Rev. Canon Ed Sniecienski