I am now an official commissioned pastor in the United Methodist Church. Up until this point, I served as a local pastor. Being a local pastor meant that I served one church in my annual conference. I could not offer the sacraments outside of my assigned church. Moving from local to commissioned pastor meant that I turned in forms and answered questions and completed my seminary degree. All of these things were read, questions were asked, and I moved on. I may now offer the sacraments at any gathering of which I am a part. As John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.”
I completed the first part of the process to full ordination. Hopefully, after a three year provisional period which includes more answers to questions and additional forms, I will be ordained as an elder in full connection with the church. The list seems to never end. I finish one set goals only to discover there are another set of goals. I keep wondering if I will ever complete the journey.
Despite the many hoops through which I am required to jump, I have enjoyed this journey into answering the calling which God placed on my life.
Last week I preached from the Book of Ezra and discussed the issue of exile. The biggest question with which I struggled was the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?” While I dismiss any notion that God simply stands aside and allows bad things or events to happen, I cannot get away from the fact that God acts in the middle of horrible circumstances.
Many times in my life, I have felt as if I was in a spiritual exile. I felt as if life, and God for that matter, had been unfair and I was left wandering through the wilderness. As I struggled in exile, God came to me and guided me through the desert. I have learned to be grateful for the journeys that I must take through the wilderness so that I may be led to the streams from which living water flows.
We have three callings: first God through Christ calls us to see we need salvation; we either appropriate the sacrifice of Christ as our own, or not. Second, God through His Holy Spirit calls us to sacrifice ourselves to serve him unconditionally without reserve; we either heed this call or we hide from it. Third, the Church calls us to serve as they affirm our first and second calling; this is sacrificial living, the most difficult part of ministry. In serving the church, pastors often feel they are lost in the wilderness. The sheep in the fold can be difficult, stubborn, and ugly, and at other times amicable and loving. Many times we might ask "Lord, of this church I am called to serve?" Sometime a seeming "exile" from where we perceive we should be at the moment is the best place for us, because when alone we are more apt to rely on the Father, more apt to listen, and more apt to be malleable to his will for us. Consider Elijah and his cave experience. When we return from exile we are stronger, maybe more purified. The hoops in ordination are man's doing. Having met the criteria of the triad calling, hence you are fully ordained in the eyes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Go and serve the Lord.
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