Today marks 6 years of my ordination as a minister. I think I’m at somewhere around 15 years of ordination as an elder (sometimes called a ‘ruling elder’ in the Presbyterian Church).
Ordination is a strange sort of calling. I preached this morning on the story of Moses being called, when God revealed God’s divine name (hint: it’s not Bob). As I put on this robe and stole, and stood in the pulpit of my church (my? well, God’s, but I’m graciously allowed to hang out there) and preached a word I hoped would bring hope, I felt what I usually feel. Joy, mingled with anxiety, wrapped in expectation, with a dash of adrenaline and eerie calm. All of that smashed up together is how I feel when I preach, but then of course you add the reading of people I’m doing during the sermon. Yes, I read a text from scripture, quite closely, I would hope. But just as closely, I am trying to read people in the pews. Is she feeling invisible? Is he thinking this is taking too controversial a turn? Is this connecting with so-and-so in the way I hoped it might? Do people seem engaged (hopefully) or entertained (it’s not the Whit Show, so hopefully not)? Do they seem confused or connected?
All of these thoughts roll around in my head, while at the same time, God does something strange. Maybe like Moses-Take-Off-Your-Shoes strange. It’s kind of a tingly feeling, where the words and the people watching become something else. I can’t really describe it beyond saying it is holy. “Take off your shoes, you’re on holy ground,” holy.
I feel it other times, too. When I’m with someone at the end of this life. When someone shares something incredibly personal, and I know what it costs them to do so. When I preside as two people make a covenant before God to love each other always. When I break bread and pour juice and welcome people in the name of Christ to the Table of reconciliation. When I hear music knowing that people mean every word and note. When I see folks genuinely care about each other, not by asking “How are you?” but by making the Passing of the Peace in worship a free-for-all of hugs and friendship, and handing out homemade muffins afterwards. Holiness abounds, it really does. Like Annie Dillard said, “holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color.”
How wild is it that it’s my job to recognize such holiness? To notice the stories behind the faces I see, to delve into strange tales of burning bushes and bare feet and say, “Hey, y’all, this matters. Here’s why…”
I often feel like this calling is so much bigger than I am (not hard to be), and always has been. What made my kindergarten self announce to my class I would be a missionary when I grew up? What made me feel so completely at home in church, and know I’d give my life to it? There are so many people who shaped this strange and wonderful journey of ministry for me, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. So thank you. And thank God that I am where I am, doing what I do, attempting to live out this call with something of humor and honesty.
6 years under my belt (or stole, as it were). That’s a lot of coffee. (And an awful lot of grace.)