This little clip art of the chalice and open Bible is here every time for a particular reason. It represents the center of a pastor’s calling in our church: that of the ministry of Word and Sacrament, which is how we define ordained ministry in the ELCA. Of course that encompasses a lot more than reading and talking about the Bible and administering the sacraments of baptism and holy communion.
You all lifted up the 20th anniversary of my ordination in a very meaningful way that I will always remember. It was a time for me to faithfully reflect on my calling as a pastor and as your pastor here.
As I did that I remembered the words said to me by Rev. Carol Been whom I had chosen to be the preacher at my service of ordination at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Santa Rosa. They were words that I thought were kinda strange when I first heard them (nothing new for Carol!) She said: “What you are about to do is impossible!”.
I certainly didn’t want to hear that after all that I had been through preparing for this day: 4 yrs. at CLU for a Bachelor’s in Humanities, and 5 years at LSTC and the U. of Chicago for a M. Div. and an MSW – not to mention 3 yrs. as a fulltime Youth Minister and 4 summers running a Lutheran camp. I was ready to tackle anything – It was ALL possible for this pastor-in-training!
But almost immediately I discovered that she was right. I went from the frying pan into the fire as my first congregation was in the midst of deep -seated internal conflict resulting from the sexual misconduct of the previous pastor. Yuck. This WAS impossible.
Through that, and many subsequent pastoral experiences, I learned that what Carol said was pretty true. But what she really meant was that it was impossible for me to be a pastor on my own, apart from me submitting to God and being ready to receive God’s power through God’s people – the church.
I have been so blessed to be your pastor, and your presence, your prayers, your work, your loving, your singing, and your openness to allowing God’s Spirit to challenge how we are church together in the 21st century – have all helped make it possible for me to overcome all the impossibilities of being a pastor.
Thank you so much for your heartfelt acknowledgement of this significant anniversary in my life. Thank you for the beautiful red El Salvadoran stole that replaces the one I received on my ordination that I had since lost. I treasure our life together and look forward to what God will make possible for us.