Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ordination Sermon

My wonderful mentor, who preached at my ordination, gave me a copy of her sermon. I liked it so much the first time, I thought I would share it with those of you who didn't get to hear it in person:

For everything (turn, turn, turn)
there is a season (turn, turn, turn)
and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Qoheleth, the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, the teacher of wisdom, is the lead-off batter for our celebration today. And I must say, Sarah, you have chosen fascinating scriptural texts for our worship! Not only does the Preacher of this book sound like a tired old cynic (at first glance)--quite out of keeping with this day to honor, tremble at, and celebrate your call. But really, I'm shocked! This is not a Beatles song! Pete Seeger wrote it in the 50's, the Byrds sang it in the 60's, but the Beatles never touched it.
Now, this needs some explaining. I first met Sarah at Lutheran Campus Ministry worship, when I was campus pastor at UM. She was starting her college career in January--with her penchant for unorthodox timing--and I was delighted to have a new student come by half-way through the year. It didn't take us long to discover our common love. Well, Jesus, of course. And then The Beatles. Must have been on a road trip when the tunes got popped into the CD player. Soon I learned the depth of Sarah's devotion, and something about the workings of her mind as well: she knew--and still knows--all the lyrics to "I Am the Walrus." Now this is a very strange Beatles song and the words make no sense. How anyone could memorize them is beyond me! But Sarah has. And if you ask her'll see.
So that started of a relationship of complexity, depth, and honesty. Not long into the semester, Sarah's boldness became apparent. Pastor Jean, she said after communion one night, this is absolutely awful communion bread. This was most certainly true. Pita bread, frozen, and nuked. Not much of an improvement on the old wafers. I have a pretty good recipe. Let me make it, OK? From then on, the sacrament of holy communion had considerably more JOY to it. Students were amazed: We've never had such good communion bread EVER! And then they felt a little guilty, for wanting the sacrament to taste good.
It does sound a little frivolous. But the students were simply following Ecclesiastes' wisdom: Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. (x2) Read the book, and see that The Preacher (the author of Ecclesiastes) was not cynically commending the party scene--eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die. Not quite. We WILL all die--rich and poor, righteous and wicked alike. We will all got to Sheol, the place of the dead, and we won't take any of the fruits of our labors with us. The Preacher was a realist, who looked at life squarely, noticed that the good don't always prosper and the wicked sometimes do quite well--and then wondered like the rest of us, what's the use? And who is God, if not the One who rewards the pious and condemns the ungodly? The Preacher's conclusion was not to dance around any of this, but look life straight in the eye and say this: There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in their...toil. This I saw is from the hand of God, for apart from God, who can eat, or who can have enjoyment?
Did you hear it? Not simply joy in play--but also joy in work. For everything is from God, who holds it all together. Not in ways that we can see. Not in ways that are easy or pain-free. Not at all. But the Preacher of Ecclesiastes is commending to Preacher Sara--and the rest of us--a bedrock trust in God. Trust in God beyond the changes and chances of life. "Vanity" it's called in the book. The word in Hebrew means "mist" or "breeze"--something that gives life but defies being grasped, boxed, quantified, preserved.
And boy, don't we know it. Just when you think you've got it all figured out--bammo!-- something happens. Death, illness, divorce, natural disaster--who among us has not been touched? Our neighbors in Burma and China are experiencing wholesale dislocation and suffering at a horrific scale. But we are not immune. And we all need good preachers who know this. Who know the precariousness of life. Even its unfairness. Who then can remind us where the bedrock lies. Who helps the congregation remember the faithfulness of God, creator; the suffering love of Christ, redeemer; and the Spirit's life-giving presence and promise, always.
Sarah, this is the privilege of your call to the people of God at Made Up Name Lutheran Church, and beyond them to the people of God gathered in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and beyond them to the people of God, the children of earth. You know where the bedrock lies. Your ministry journey had forged in you a depth of character and faith. So remind us, please, when the mist fogs us in. And we will remind each other, because the Spirit "calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth"--this is the Spirit's work, and we are simply the Spirit's little helpers--invited to go about it all with joy.
For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to mourn and a time to dance. The challenge of ministry is knowing when. When is it time to mourn? Sometimes it's obvious. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes the culture dances while the church mourns--or should. Sometimes we dance with tears in our eyes. Helping the people of God discern what time it is--and then offering a way to mark it--is one of the great challenges of ministry. But you are gifted, dear Sarah, with experience, training, a fine heart, a superb education, a prayerful spirit--and now the call of the good people of MNLC.
It's a lot--but not to worry. We've got you covered. You have been shaped by the love of your family, nurtured in the care of this congregation, goaded by the challenges of leading your peers in campus ministry, tempered in the fires of seminary and internship, hounded by the Spirit of God all along, and now welcomed into leadership, by congregation and colleague alike.
When the going gets tough, you know that the church has been there before. The people addressed by Peter's first letter were experiencing the early slings and arrows of religious discrimination and alienation. Yet out of this unstable ground, the people hear: By God's great mercy, God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. A new birth into a living hope, and not only that, but the "various trials" the people endured refined, purified, and strengthened their faith in God. You know this. When the going gets tough, trust digs deep.
But it's not always tough. Ministry with the people of God is an awesome privilege, and sometimes a rare delight. You get to ponder God's word, deeply. And put it out there to the congregation. You get to bake bread with little kids who make you laugh. You get to bless and bury the beloved of God. There's nothing better, if that's what you're called to. So Jesus says to you, Sarah, GO! Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the So and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. That's a lot: Go, make disciples, baptize, teach. But that's not all. Jesus' last word is remember: I am with you always, to the end of the age. Sarah, remember: Christ is with you. Remember: it is your pastoral responsibility--to yourself--to remember Christ is with you. And then proclaim it to your people, with your life and your words: Christ is with you. Always. In every season. Planting and plucking. Weeping and laughing. Tearing and sewing. Christ is with you always. To the end of the age. This is the gospel of the Lord. Thanks be to God!

Friday, May 23, 2008


I love this picture of my 2 year old niece. It was taken after church on Easter, and apparently she was having a grand time rolling around up by the altar. A friend of mine said it looks like she's "basking in the love of God." Not a bad place, if you ask me, I think she's got the right idea.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


So, I like shoes. It has been pointed out to me that I am a shoe hound (other words starting with an "h" sound have also been used...). At any rate, my shoes get regular comment, so I thought I'd post a pic of the hot red shoes I had for ordination. It's a bit blurry as apparently I was doing some sort of foot dance, but you get the idea. Oh, and you can see the cute skirt my mom made for the event!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Yesterday was amazing. I really couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather was beautiful, but the church didn't get too hot. There was a bit of family stress and drama before things started, but once the service started things were fine. The nieces all did wonderful jobs at their assigned tasks (guest book attendant, acolyte and communion basket carrier). The youngest niece sadly didn't make it because she fell asleep and had a nap for 2 hours instead, but she and my brother-in-law were there for the reception.

The service went really well. I cried, of course, but I knew that was going to happen. I haven't made it through an ordination yet without crying, so why would my own be different? There were several moments when I teared up, but the big one was during the ordination service when everyone laid hands on me. I was doing OK until the nieces came up and held my hand throughout. I couldn't see them because they were behind me, and I can't really describe it, but them, along with everyone who was laying on hands was just an incredible experience.

I feel like this post should be longer because the day was so full and so amazing, but at the same time I don't quite know how to put it all into words.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Happy Dance

I'm gettin' ordained today! More later, I just wanted to do a quick little dance of celebration beforehand. :-)

Friday, May 16, 2008


Kbomb tagged me for this one. We'll see how it goes. It's better than obsessing over details about tomorrow!

A- Attached or single: Single. Sigh.
B- Best Friend: Rachel
C-Cake or Pie: Cake
D-Day: Mondays are now my day off, so those are pretty fabulous.
E- Essential Item: Chocolate.
F- Favorite Color: Blue
G-Gummi Bears or Worms: Gummy bears, although I always kind of feel bad about biting their little heads off..
H-Home town: Plains, MT
I- Indulgences: Hot baths with a good book and a glass of wine
J- January or July?: July, January is usually gray and cold and sloppy
K-Kids: Aw, kiddos! 4 nieces, and many "adopted" children
L-Life is incomplete without: laughter
M- Marriage Date: July 10, 2010. OK, not really, but I wanted to put SOMETHING down, and wouldn't it be funny if that turned out to be true? :-)
N- Number of Siblings: 1 sister, 1 brother, 1 brother-in-law
O- Oranges or Apples: Depends on what's in the fridge, or my mood at the grocery store.
P- Phobias or Fears: Heights, failure
Q- Quote: "Chocolate feels good in my mouth."--4 year old niece
R- Reason To Smile: Fabulous friends and family
S- Season: Fall--not too hot, not too cold, less sloppy than spring
T- Tag Three: Not in Kansas Anymore, Optophilia
U- Unknown fact about me: I am an open book... :-)
V- Vegetarian or Oppressor of Animals: Both, sort of. Not a vegetarian, but not a big fan of meat, especially red meat.
W- Worst Habit: Tactlessness
Y-Your favorite food: Chocolate
Z: Zodiac Sign: Aries

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oh, Dear

Well, I haven't even been here a full two weeks, yet, but I've managed to stick my foot in my mouth. An off-hand comment at a board meeting on Monday has escalated almost to the point of the ridiculous. I'm annoyed with myself, certainly, for allowing myself to feel pushed and overwhelmed, and for not censoring what then came flying out of my mouth. On the plus side, it was simply a rather tact-less phrase, I didn't swear or call anyone names, or anything. I simply expressed an opinion that then got blown way out of proportion. I've also come into my first contact with passive-aggressive projection by a parishioner who wants me to think one way and is now very angry with me for having my own opinion. A situation like this was bound to happen sooner or later, so I guess this way I got the first one out of the way. Having this happen the week of my ordination is only adding to the stress level, but I'm trying to handle the situation with as much grace as possible. I'm also grateful for the support the lead pastor and others have given me. Having said all of this, here's the thing that keeps coming back to me: This can't be the stupidest thing I'll ever say (isn't that a comforting thought), and if every opinion I express is met with this kind of crazed fall-out this could be a really interesting (and long) first call.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


My first week has gone well. There are definitely times when I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, and times when I feel like in WAY over my head. I had one such moment on Thursday when someone asked me the question, "Pastor, what does the bible say about smoking pot?" At first I thought he was kidding, but he wasn't, and we then had a conversation about medical marijuana. The thing is, he didn't want anything abstract. I think he would have been really happy if I could have opened up my bible and pointed to a passage that said, "and then God said to so-and-so to go forth and smoke pot." Or maybe, "God said not to smoke pot, you worthless sinner!" I handled the conversation with as much grace as I could, but I had absolutely no idea what to say, so of course I've been rehashing it in my head. I just hope I handled it OK.

Tomorrow I preach my first sermon in my new call. I'm really nervous. So nervous that I'm at that point where I don't want to look at my sermon (which I wrote yesterday, but really struggled with) in case it turns out that it's really bad, or perhaps it simply doesn't make sense. I know I'll have to look at it soon, but there are so many ways to procrastinate about it: I went shopping with my mom, sister, and niece since they were in town, I'm doing laundry, I'm blogging. OK, here I go. No, really, I'm going to try really hard to avoid more procrastination and go finish!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

1st Sunday

Well, I survived my first Sunday. Actually, it went really well. I was a bit nervous before the first service, but once we started and I got into the rhythm of things I relaxed and things were just fine. Having 2 services is going to take some getting used to, though. My body was ready for a nap after the first service, but I still had another to go. Also, this getting up before 6 am on Sundays? That's just wrong. :-) This church hasn't done a children's sermon or time in many years (I don't know how many), but they're all very excited about the puppets, so I had the first children's time this morning to introduce the kids t the puppets. It was like deer in the headlights. Only one kid in about 20 actually talked to me when I asked questions. A few others nodded occasionally, but for all I knew, they could have been comatose. I think they'll get used to it, but they seemed pretty freaked out this morning. The funniest thing I found about the morning is the number of people who commented on how good my office looks. There's a window in the hall that looks into my office, so I get this mental image of people peering through the window to see what I've done with the place. Well that, and anyone who has a key to the building has a key to my office. The one key opens every room in the church except the quilters' room. At any rate, apparently my decorating skills are up to snuff, regardless of where my presiding skills might be!

Friday, May 2, 2008


I have officially moved! The big day was Wednesday, and it went really well. My entire family came to help, even the 2 nieces who should have been in school got to come along. So, with 10 people unloading the horse trailer it didn't take too long. Now my apartment is full of boxes, and I can't find anything. Also, my apartment is on the 2nd floor as well as a hill, so there are stairs to get up to the stairs going to my apartment. I woke up yesterday and my calves were killing me! Who needs a step aerobics class when you can move into a second floor apartment?

Yesterday was my first day of "work." I put that in quotes because while I spent the day at the church, I didn't exactly do much: Got here about 15 minutes later than I anticipated because I couldn't find half of the stuff I was looking for as I got dressed and ready, met with the church secretary about paperwork stuff, got a tour of my partially cleaned-out office from a member of the church who has been working on cleaning off the bookshelves (it's a decent sized office, but man is there a lot of stuff already in here!), met with the lead pastor, worship leader and sound person about acoustics in the sanctuary, wandered back to my office to discover that KAG had sent me flowers!, met with the lead pastor and worship leader about Sunday's worship where I will be presiding, had lunch with the lead pastor, came back to the church and met the quilting group (a group of women who have the most organized quilting room/operation I have EVER seen), chatted for awhile with the lead pastor before he left to go work on his sermon, and finally, sat in my office for awhile wondering what I was supposed to do now that I was the only one in the building? All in all, a pretty good first day. :-)

Last night I tackled more boxes. I'm actually making a lot of progress, but it's at that point where things just look worse and probably will continue to look worse until I finally start getting things organized. This morning I brought boxes to work (Oh, it's Friday, so it's the lead pastor's day off, as well as the secretary's. They're looking to hire someone else part-time, but for now it's just me). I hauled 6 boxes of books to the office, and I know there are more boxes still lurking at the apartment. I realize that many people have many more books than this (I won't even count the number of boxes of books I'm leaving home), but this is just from seminary. Many of them have been in storage for the past 3 years, so it's fun to see what I've forgotten I even had, but dang, if I have this many now, how bad is it going to be the next time I move?