Friday, July 17, 2020

Twenty-Four Years in Holy Orders

Twenty-four years ago, today, in Evansville, Indiana, I entered into holy orders as our (then) jurisdictional bishop (general superintendent), the Rev'd. Dr. Jim Diehl, in the company of all of the elders of the Southwest Indiana District, laid hands on me and ordained me an elder (presbyter/priest)* in the Church of God according to the Church of the Nazarene.

As I reflect on the years of ordained ministry, I am thankful for God's call and the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to celebrate the sacraments of the Lord.  By God's grace, I have served as pastor to five churches: Greencastle Church of the Nazarene (where I was serving when I was ordained), Grace Church of the Nazarene (Evansville), Centenary United Methodist Church (New Albany), Heartland Church of the Nazarene (Floyds Knobs) and Main Street United Methodist Church (New Albany).  -  I am thankful for the good people of God in all of these congregations; for their love and grace toward me and my family.

I like the ordinal that was used in our circles for a period of time (though it was not used during my ordination).  It included a place for elders to give the following address to those about to be ordained:

As a prophet, you are to boldly proclaim the gospel and call persons to be authentic expressions of the kingdom of God.  You are to speak truth to the people of God, calling the church to be an inclusive instrument of peace, justice, and compassion.

As a priest, you are to lead the people of God in worship, to administer the holy sacraments, and to be an instrument of God's benediction in the church.

As a shepherd, you are to love and serve the people of God, to be present with them in the experiences of life, and to live as a model of holy love.

Those are good words, and I hope that I have done that, by God's grace, over the years.

We are living in a new day, to say the least.  Further, I am currently in transition, serving the Main Street Church part-time, and looking for a "full-time" ministry (however that might be worked out).  -  It can become rather stressful, to tell the truth.

And yet, I have in recent times come to be attracted towards seeing life in terms of pilgrimage.  The thing about pilgrimage is that the journey may indeed have stretches of mundane-ness, or stress or danger and "uncertainty."  One can see this in the story of The Hobbit, which can be viewed as pilgrimage, as well.  It is during these stretches of the journey that God, indeed, desires to shape us . . . though, again, it may not seem pleasant.

A couple of verses that I hang onto that capture the concept of pilgrimage are Jeremiah 6:16 (a life verse for me) and Isaiah 30:21.  The Jeremiah verse says:  Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

Isaiah 30:21 says: And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."  -  I recall one of my favorite professors, Dr. Paul Bassett, highlight this verse as he focused on the roots of my own denomination.  And just the other day, my district superintendent, Dr. Tim Crump, presented me (and the pastors on our district) an appreciation gift; a compass with that very verse engraved on it.  -  I have to say, I find that gift to be very meaningful!

So, as I continue on this pilgrimage of life, and as I look toward the future in ministry as an ordained elder/presbyter/priest* in Christ's Church, though the path may not seem clear and certain, nevertheless I listen to the voice behind me and look back to the ancient paths, and I trust that God will continue to faithfully lead.

Thank you, Lord, for your call into Christian ministry and for my ordination 24 years ago!  May God be glorified!


For an interesting article about the language of presbyter/priest/elder, check out this 2015 post: "How Both New Testament 'Presbyters' and Old Testament 'Cohenim' Became 'Priests' in English"

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