7 Easter, Year One[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning) // 119:121-144 (evening)
There’s a paradox in the way that the Episcopal Church organizes ministry. On the one hand, only a few people are ordained as deacons and priests. On the other hand, we also affirm the “priesthood of all believers,” expressed especially well in the welcome we give to newly-baptized Christians: “We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”
Christ’s priesthood isn’t deposited into a few of us; it’s something we all share. With this understanding of priesthood in mind, we can turn to a distinction made in today’s second reading. The letter to the Hebrews differentiates the official and hereditary Levitical priesthood from priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek.
The Levitical priesthood depended on ancestry, membership in a particular tribe. This priesthood belonged to “those descendants of Levi who receive priestly office.” The priesthood of Melchizedek, however, traces itself to a man who appears and disappears very suddenly in the book of Genesis: “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Priests in this order arise just as suddenly, becoming priests “not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life.”
Our ordination rite proclaims that Episcopal priests belong to the order of Melchizedek, and it’s true that our order of ministry is (usually!) not hereditary. However, many of us derive our priesthood in ways that resemble levitical priests: “through a legal requirement,” receiving the official recognition of our faith communities.
But we would all do well to focus less on regulating official orders of ministry and instead on claiming and sharing the eternal, indestructible, spontaneous priesthood of all those who come to bring justice and peace. As the reading points out, “King Melchizedek of Salem” means “king of justice” and “king of peace.” How can we all claim our priesthood today?
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.