As we all know, the cart does not come before the horse. If you want to get anywhere in your cart, then the horse needs to lead. In our time of horseless carriages, this might not be so interesting to us. But St Paul knew the basic importance of this from personal experience, as he travelled around the Roman empire. By the time he was writing to the Church in Ephesus, he had made the journey to imprisonment in Rome—‘a prisoner in the Lord’, as he described himself to the Ephesian Christians.

This prisoner in the Lord may not have had the image of a cart and horse on his mind as he wrote to his friends in Ephesus, but it is an apt image to understand his words to them. As we heard in our second reading, St Paul wished to implore his friends ‘to lead a life worthy of your vocation.’ And he immediately went on to articulate what this living worthily of their vocation looked like. As he said to them, ‘bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.’

Charity, selflessness, gentleness, patience, unity, peacefulness. These are the key behaviours Paul called the Ephesians to live by; these are the chief characteristics of a vocation in the Lord. Here is the horse. These are the drivers that bring us into a life in the Holy Spirit, the features which bind us to the one Body of Christ.

It is only by first living this charitable, selfless, gentle, patient, unifying and peaceful vocation, as members of Christ’s body, that we might subsequently look to the particular shape it takes in each of our lives. As St Paul goes on to say, each person of faith ‘has been given [their] own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.’ And this has been given to us—not taken for ourselves—so as to form all of us into ‘a unity in the work of service that builds up the body of Christ.’

God has called each of us to live out our shared vocation in a particular way, but it is the common vocation that comes first. That individually given grace that shapes each of us uniquely comes subsequently. And then, this God-given grace comes to us so that it might be shared among us all. First the vocation, then the individual grace, but all for unity in Christ. As St Paul finishes his words to the Church in Ephesus, ‘we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God.’

You men, who come before us, the Church in Melbourne, to acknowledge and receive the particular grace God will now give to you in ordination, do not forget that this gift is consequential to the primary vocation you have already been called by Christ to live. Do not, then, put your cart before the horse of the Body of Christ. As the Lord himself said to his disciples, and now to you, lay down your life to all those whom God is pleased to place before you to be your friends.

Do so charitably, selflessly, gently, patiently, unifyingly and peacefully. These are your primary drivers, the gears, so to speak, through which you are to shift so as to move as ordained ministers with Christ’s friends towards unity in him. You are to serve Christ’s faithful in such a way that they—we—might recognise you as a trusted friend. Go out, and bear fruit that will last, knowing you are being given God’s gift, to be a carriage of the work for the building up of the Body of Christ.