Tuesday, July 28, 2009

10 Years Ago...

...I was ordained to the Office of Word and Sacrament. 10 years ago Bishop Mike Pryse of the Eastern Synod laid hands on my head, rubbed oil on my hands, and asked me a series of questions that constituted my ordination vows:


EXAMINATION--The presiding minister questions the ordinand:


P: Before Almighty God, to whom you must give account, and in the
presence of this congregation, I ask: Will you assume this office,
believing that the Church’s call is God’s call to the ministry of
Word and Sacrament?
R: I will, and I ask God to help me.

P: The Church in which you are to be ordained confesses that the
Holy Scriptures are the Word of God and are the norm of its faith
and life. We accept, teach, and confess the Apostles’, the Nicene, and
the Athanasian Creeds. We also acknowledge the Lutheran
Confessions as true witnesses and faithful expositions of the Holy
Scriptures. Will you therefore preach and teach in accordance with
the Holy Scriptures and these creeds and confessions?
R: I will, and I ask God to help me.

P: Will you be diligent in your study of the Holy Scriptures and in
your use of the means of grace? Will you pray for God’s people,
nourish them with the Word and Holy Sacraments, and lead them by
your own example in faithful service and holy living?
R: I will, and I ask God to help me.

P: Will you give faithful witness in the world, that God’s love may
be known in all that you do?
R: I will, and I ask God to help me.

P: Almighty God, who has given you the will to do these things,
graciously give you the strength and compassion to perform them.
C: Amen


10 years ago. Who knew that time could fly so quickly? Who knew that ministry could be such a ride?

It was a hot night. 34C at 7:00 pm. That was outside. Inside the air-conditioner-free church, it was so sultry that even the walls were sweating. Maybe that should have been a sign.

But I must admit, my understanding of ministry has changed drastically in this time. I've changed. Or maybe God changed me. Or both.

When I started out you'd never see me without a dog collar. Now I rarely wear one.

I used to believe in a sharp distinction between clergy and laity, wearing the trappings of clerical power with enthusiasm.

Now I see no difference, and shun some outward symbols of clerical authority. Yes, there is some authority that comes from God through the church in the office of pastor, but I find that there's a greater authority that comes from simply being a baptized believer, trying to figure out – together, with the people I'm called to serve – what this whole Jesus thing is all about.

10 years ago I was a stickler for “proper liturgical practice.” Now I know that there's no such thing. That God is not bound to human traditions – including “proper” liturgy. I may wear fancy robes on Sunday mornings. But those garments symbolize EVERYONE, not just me. I am a mirror for the congregation.

My white alb (aka "Big White Dress") reminds people that THEY are baptized, made new, washed clean by Jesus, not just me. The stole around my neck calls people's attention to the reality that they too are yoked to Jesus, not just those with “Rev” in front of their names. The cincture – the rope around my waste – helps the congregation recall that we all are girded to Christ. The chasuble – or holy poncho – proclaims that all who are baptized are enveloped in God's love.

10 years ago I was much more theologically conservative. Now I know that “conservative” and “liberal” are fluid categories being rendered meaningless.

10 years ago I thought I had to cast a vision for the congregation to chase after. Now I know that it's GOD who casts the vision. And calls us to follow. God will be at work in the world, whether or not we are as well. God is not limited to working through the church. God just likes it when we're on board with what God is doing.

10 years ago I thought that the pastor was the voice of the church. Now I know that the pastor is one voice among many faithful Christians called to speak God's Word of mercy, justice, forgiveness, and peace, wherever they find themselves.

In other words, my job has nothing to do with me. And everything to do with God.

I could go on. These are just the highlights. But I think I'll wait and see what happens in the next 10 years.

God willing.

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