Wednesday, June 04, 2008

an ebenezer


my feet are finally starting to touch the ground. i've been in an elated state for several days now, just running on the adrenaline and joy of my ordination. i thought i would share a little bit about it.

it started on friday afternoon, at the service of commissioning (commissioning is part of the ordination process - i was commissioned in 2005). part of that service is something called the passing of the mantle in which one representative of the class of retiring clergy passes "the mantle," which is a stole, to a representative from the ordinands. i was chosen to be that representative from the ordinands, and it was a huge honor for me. as rev. dismus placed the stole on me, i felt the responsibility of the moment in a way i had not before. my place in all of this is only one link in a long and beautiful chain of people who have gone before and will come after. for now, at least, i stand in the gap, and answer God's call in the present moment. i have no idea where this call will take me; i do not pretend to know what relationships i will be called to foster, what needs i will be asked to meet, what darkness will be mine to shine light into. but i know that i will go wherever i am led.

the ordination service was later that evening. all the clergy processed in to an ensemble of drumming on drums from various cultures, which was really beautiful and a neat moment for me (as a former drummer and current lover or rhythm). we then sang "God of grace and God of glory" which was boisterous and beautiful:
God of grace and God of glory,
on thy people pour thine power,
crown thine ancient chruch's story,
bring her bud to glorious flower.
alleluia, alleluia!
grant us wisdom for this hour
grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour.

following some opening greetings, the choir, directed by my friend mark miller, sang an anthem which mark wrote called "draw the circle wide." on the way into the worship service my friend larry (another blogger - his is here) said, "i should have brought some tissues in with me." i replied, somewhat smartly, "we dont' need tissues, you little baby. we'll be fine."

so let me just tell you that about 30 seconds into this anthem my emotions overcame me and i began to just weep. i did not get misty-eyed. i didn't have a little tear in the corner of my eye. i wept. so, sorry about that larry. i was wrong! but the anthem was incredible. it was one of the highlights of my life in worship. truly.

the scripture was 1 peter 1:13-16:
therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct, for it is written, "you shall be holy, for i am holy."

our bishop, bishop devadhar, then preched a sermon entitled, "roll up your sleeves!" in which he told a story from his childhood in which their price-winning family cow was having a problem delivering a calf and it seemed that they might lose both the calf and the cow. they called the vet, who came from some kind of important gathering and arrived on the scene in a clean and nice suit. rather than worry about his clothes or fret about how to do it or anything else, the vet simply rolled up his sleeves and went to work at his vocation. the bishop urged us to do the same: to roll up our sleeves and get busy answering our call to ministry without worrying about the other stuff. it was a powerful message that he delivered with passion and, in my humble opinion, it was the best sermon i've ever heard him preach. bishop, if you are reading, thank you.

we then sang "be thou my vision" which is one of my favorites, and then it came time for the ordination itself. one by one we were escorted to the chancel, where we knelt and placed our hands on a bible. when i knelt there were a million thoughts going through my head, and i was nearly overwhelmed with the gravity of the moment, figuratively and literally. i knelt down, put my hands on the bible and felt the bishops warm hands on my head. he didn't just gently place his hands on me, but he pressed down firmly, as if this moment was the most critical moment in his ministry. it was firm and solid. it was intense. and i felt the weight of it. i felt the support of those gathered around me. i felt the presence of my father, who was there on the chancel with me as my sponsor. i felt the love of my mom and my wife, sitting in the first row. i felt the affirmation of the clergy and laity in the room who stood up while i kneeled to show their support for me. i felt the encouragement of all of those across the pages of my life who have been a part of my story; who have journeyed with me for a time and helped me figure out a bit more about who i am and what God is calling me to do. i felt all of that, and i was ordained. into the united methodist church. into the office of elder. into a lifetime of ministry and service. into a connection that at once supports me and holds me accountable.

not much has changed, in some ways. i'm still the same guy, in the same church doing the same ministry. i have a different piece of paper on the wall. but in other ways, a great deal has changed for me. the stole on my shoulders reminds me that i bear a burden of great import and honor. this is not some end in my journey, nor is it really a beginning. it is a milestone, an ebenezer, a place to mark a new movement in my ministry.

lord, grant me wisdom! grant me courage for the facing of this hour! grant me courage, to serve you whom i adore!

5 comments:

Dan said...

Greg. Karen and I loved the song "Draw the circle wide". We got to hear it several times when the choir was rehearsing before the ceremony. Is it possible to get a copy of the music? I think Karen might want to use it for Bible School this summer.

greg. said...

dan, i'll check it out - i'll talk to the composer to see what he says. thanks for watching.

greg c said...

I find we tend to throw the word 'awesome' around an awful lot but if there's one place where it truly fits, it's here. Awesome.
Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer (aka, JJ) said...

Wow, Greg! Congratulations to you! It sounds like it was a powerful service of celebration and joy.

Jennifer Renfrow said...

Congratulations Greg! God has moved so powerfully in you....it's cool for someone like me to hear (and be a small part of) your journey! I was called to ministry by the Lord at an ordination service. Be thou my vision! I thank God for how He moved, and keeps moving! Blessings pastor!
Jennifer/Wah mei(Renfrow)