Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ordination: How Did This Happen?

Lynda asked a few comments back whether I ever think in amazement about where God has brought me, and I responded that yes, that's where these posts are coming from, because I finally have the time to think about it.

Last night I realized that what I meant was that I finally have the peace of mind to think about it. 

Two things I particularly noticed as I listened -- yes, again -- to my ordination service last night.

The first was that the three individuals who read the Scripture passages represent three faith traditions.  A Jewish woman, a dear friend of many years, read Psalm 139 ~ the first verses in Hebrew, and then all of it in English.  A Catholic woman, another good friend and the director of my spiritual direction program, read from Romans 8.  And my best friend from seminary, ordained a UCC pastor a couple of weeks later, read the narrative of the Woman at the Well.

Sometimes I get frustrated and worn out by the dichotomies (or, these days: dichotomies-plus) of my life.  Not troubled ~ it's a great gift to have been offered windows into and roles in such diverse communities.  But the balancing act can be tiring.  Pastor and spiritual director.  Protestant and Catholic, with a hefty dose of Jewish and a possibly new influx of Muslim.  Methodist and Presbyterian.  City and country. 

When this all got started, I was a Presbyterian elder teaching in a Jewish school and putting things together with a Catholic spiritual director.  Go figure.

I'm so grateful that the service reflected that blend.  When you listen to those voices reading those texts, it seems not only possible but very real, that God speaks in all times and in all ways.

And then, the sermon.  If you think about it, the story of the Woman at the Well represents, on the face of it, another dichotomy: Samarian and Jewish.  And if you probe a bit deeper, you find others.  And finally, underneath them all: the blend, the mix, the encounter, the merger, that the narrative is about.  What our preacher, my professor, called "the invasion of God into this world."  The beginnings of resurrection life, here, with Jesus, the one who is the resurrection, the living water, the life.

Probably more than most new pastors, I have been backed into a corner, forced to confront the ways in which life and death merge.  I can't say that I understand any of it at all.  I am surprised, in truth, to have survived the last four years.  For the first couple of them, my only consistent hope was that the ground would open up and swallow me into oblivion.  These days, I would say that I am pretty content, and sometimes even filled with joy ~ but only against a backdrop of anguish that never subsides.  I suppose that it's good for something; I am much more aware of the terrible canvas of pain in this world.  But you are welcome to that awareness if you want it.  Just give me back my child.

All of which is to say that, if Resurrection life has already begun; if our faith really is about Jesus' triumph here and now in the creation he is healing, rather than about some future fantasy land; if living water means what it sounds like it means: present tense ~ then I don't understand it, but I think it's awesome that I get to proclaim it in word and sacrament.

There isn't a day that I don't think about the sight and the feel of the body I held in my arms four years ago.  And last week it was all I could do not to stop in the middle of our communion liturgy to say, "Do you all understand what is going on here ?!"

That's the ultimate dichotomy in my life.

This is a strange and wonderful calling.

(Youtube: Not my church, but we did sing this at the end of communion.  Years ago, our children's choir often sang it, and I often think of my daughter's little soprano voice when we reach the descant.)


  1. What a rich tapestry you have woven in your one life! It has not been easy but the result is incredibly rich.

  2. I agree with Lynda. You have an amazing life filled with many paradoxes. I am not yet sure I believe resurrection life has already begun...maybe a little. Perhaps no bereaved parent will ever see that one till they see their lost child again. But I do believe it is coming and that gives me enough hope to go the day.

  3. I was just thinking about your ordination during Yom Kippur as it was truly one of the highlights of the past year. It was a gift to me to be able to participate in such a memorable occasion. I cringe to think of my voice on tape; I was surprisingly nervous and my voice wouldn't come out. (A very rare occurrence for me!)

    1. It was such a joy to have you here as a participant.