Here’s me at my ordination on this day in 2009. Back when I was preparing for ordination, I fancied myself a somewhat unlikely pastor. Then I learned that there really is no such thing as a likely pastor anymore, so I may as well get over that conceit and figure out how to do this job.
Not, I should add, that I’ve made much progress at that, either. There are some kinds of tasks I’ve gotten better at, to be sure. But most of it has been a kind of professional ascesis. You fuss and weep over asermon and maybe it does something or maybe it doesn’t, but someone shows up to the first time in ages and can sit through it because it’s happening and you’re not making any sudden movements. The one time I was required to give advice to someone in the ordination process, my contribution boiled down to: 1) tend your primary relationships; 2) be dogged in your prayer and spiritual practice; 3) try not to care if you fail.
A number of gifted, faithful people I came into this business with have left, usually under circumstances I can completely understand. I’m not sure any of us was especially well prepared to pilot these institutions through these particular waters. Forget the likelihood that we’d ever make a difference; I don’t remember being trained in the weird, otherwise useless kinds of humility and fortitude we’d need to persevere. I had to pick that up, insofar as I have, as I go. I’m grateful for the people who helped me along the way.
I love what I do. I love the Island of Misfit Toys that is the church today. I love that there is no incantation or conjuring of the Word of God, but that it has to simply happen through you, in some way. I love praying for people. I love the feel of the celebrant host in my hand. I love talking to preschool kids in the persona of a giant bullfrog puppet. I’m grateful for the people whose generosity allows me to do it. It can be a grind, but it’s always an indulgence, as far as the world is concerned. There’s a freedom, I hope, in being so unnecessary. And as I never cease to point out, that freedom comes with an obligation: that whoever asks for the ministry of Word and Sacrament from us must be given it.
If you are the sort to pray, I would be grateful for your prayers today. I would, and will, do the same for you.