So... I was ordained tonight. I would imagine that it looked nothing like the ordination ceremony for most other ministers, but it was an ordination nonetheless. A professor at my seminary is fond of saying "If you wait for other people to ordain you, you may never know the place to which God has really called you."
And so we ordained a room full of preachers tonight. And as Presbyterians do, we did things decently and in order, and even had an official charge-- given by the only people that could really give charges in that room-- the people that we have wrestled with, and fought for, and yelled at, and cried with. They were the characters from the texts from whom we have learned much; the characters that we've spent a semester learning to embody. The professor had asked us to prepare for tonight by having the character who has spoken the most to us write us a letter, charging us to go out into the world. And we went around the room, and each of us had a classmate read the letter from our chosen "mentor", and we were charged. We had a stole placed around us. And then we had another stole of knitted socks given to us as a way of remembering both the places we have walked and the places we will walk. And then we were offered communion, though not with the traditional words or elements. Rather this communion was reflective of the passover meal we celebrated as a class, complete with the bread of freedom and the cup of acceptance and even milk and honey. And then the class opened their arms to the one being ordained, and collectively said "We send you across." I have been sent across, and I firmly believe that I will hold this ordination as sacred as the one which is hopefully to come. I can't say for sure, but I think I will wear my "sock stole" with the red stole I will be given on that ellusive day to come.
The character that I chose to charge me was Moses' mother, and this was based on the midrash I did for an earlier sermon. Here is what she said to me:
It looks like you could use the wisdom of the ages, and I guess that happens to come through me (Moshe’s mother) today. I noticed that you seemed to gravitate toward me because of the tough decision I made—a decision that flew in the face of everything that I was “supposed” to do—a decision for which I could have even been killed. I suspect you admired my strength, though there comes a point when you just have to do what you have to do, and I don’t know that my decision had that much to do with strength. It had to do with a love, and a passion to pursue what was right, though it may not have been right in the eyes of the law.
I saw the way you thought about me when you wondered aloud what it meant to follow God, even at the expense of breaking the law of the land—I see you wrestling with the same sorts of questions and wondering where you can go. I see you wondering whether you have the strength to make the tough decisions, but I was sent to tell you that you have more strength than you realize you do. I see you wanting to break the mold, to let the text take you and your congregation to the place it needs to take you, even (and especially?) if that place upsets the way things have “always been”.
I’d like to invite you to think about me, along the same lines that you’ve already been thinking about me, but go farther. I loved my son Moshe enough that I wanted him to have a chance at life, even at the possible expense of my own. What is it that you love so much that you would risk everything you hold sacred to give it a chance at life? And too, I invite you to think about the consequences of my decision. Though you don’t hear much more from me, you hear a tremendous amount from my son. If I hadn’t made the decision I did, there would be no Moshe. Certainly God could have created someone else, but God chose Moshe to lead his people to freedom. What are the possible benefits of the hard decisions you have to make about the type of preacher you want to be, and the type of message you have been called to proclaim. My hard decision played a part in the deliverance of generations of people.
Pharoah was the one saying “no” to the desires I had for my life and the life of my son. But the thing I realized is that he was only a human. Who is saying “no” to you? Is it your CPM? Is it the hearers of your proclamation? Whoever it is—are they more than human?
What I wish for you this day, and in the days yet to come is the strength to follow God’s, not man’s, will for you—and yes, sometimes those will seem to be in direct conflict. It’s not easy—but you’ve been called to play a role in an exodus—or maybe several of them.
Take heart. The gifts you have and the God you serve will see you through. Diyanhu (sp?). It is enough.
The Lord be with You!