Today I will be ordained. I’ve got a lot going through my mind because of this.
Ordination marks the end of one stage in life and the beginning of another. I could go on about this, but I won’t. Instead, I’m going to talk about something else – or rather a few something elses.
Ordination means that I’m different. I have a new role to live out – pastor in a congregation. Regardless of what I want, I’ll be seen differently. The collar is a visible sign that a person is set aside for ministry. That means I’ll be listening to many people’s stories and struggles. I’ll get to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows with people. I’ll force myself to love people who I might not otherwise love. I’ll make mistakes and those mistakes will be public. I’ll do my best to be true to preaching God’s word and offering the sacraments. I’ll be seen as an example. I’ll be seen as the one responsible – especially when something doesn’t work.
Ordination means I’m not different at all. I haven’t changed because of ordination. Actually, I’ve been changing as a person ever since I’ve been born. Seminary puts that process in high gear. Ordination though doesn’t change the person – it’s more of a public recognition of the changes that God has been working in a person. But being ordained doesn’t mean I’m somehow more special or holy than other people – even if the collar gives people the thought that is the case. I’m still me. I still sin and screw up. I still get mad and swear. Still struggle with some relationships to people and systems. And I’ll still need forgiveness, love, mercy, and friendship.
Ordination is many things. As I go from this day forward I’ll find out what those things are first hand. So will my family. They have been along for this ride for some time now and are about to start a new phase in the journey. They didn’t take a single seminary class, but they have been being prepared for this too. They didn’t receive any credit for the classes, but they learned. They didn’t research about the decline of the church in the world, but they came along with me to live in a foreign land and know what it means to be strangers and others. They didn’t go into the church each day on internship or lead worship, but they came along with me to internship – sacrificing their lives for the sake of this calling – knowing first hand what it means to serve. They didn’t walk with me on graduation day and receive a diploma, but they did the journey with me and received so much more from God – flexibility, adaptability, third culture, patience, listening skills, compassion, relationship skills, and grace.
This evening I’ll be the one receiving a stole and a laying on of hands. That’s what ordination begins with. But it will be my family’s hands that will lay on me in the difficult times – hands that will remind me of God’s unwavering love, grace, and forgiveness. It will be my wife’s hands that will hold mine when I need them most.
Ordination is many things. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for my ministry, for our family, and for St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in New Kingstown, PA where God has called me to serve as pastor.
Let’s do this!