The passage from Luke’s gospel appointed for today’s celebration of the of the ordination of the first woman priest in the Anglican Speaks of plentiful harvests and a sparse labor force. On the one hand, this reflects well, the situation on the ground in the province of Hong Kong in 1944 when Florence was ordained. Japanese control had all but choked out the formal presence of the church. There were Christians present for sure, but there were too few priests to service all of their needs. Moreover, time of great social crisis are often the most fruitful for the spread of god’s love through the preaching of the Gospel. It was perhaps the worst possible time for the institution to find itself wanting for willing, qualified leadership.
Yet, God provided.
I think there is a tendency within the church today to look back on the epoch of Florence Li Tim Oi and give thanks that we no longer live back then. Things were rough. The laborers were indeed few. But I wonder, sometimes, if in looking back we fail to adequately assess our own current situation. True, we do not live under the thumb of foreign oppression. But are the fields any less ripe for the harvest now than it was then? Are there really any more laborers? I dare say not.
In addition to giving thanks, today, for the witness of Florence and the bravery of her bishop, for the work of women ministers in the church and the gifts that they have added, let’s be sure, also, to redouble our prayers that God would continue to provide laborers for his vineyard. For we are too few, Lord and the harvest is indeed plentiful.