This past weekend marked the fifth anniversary of the first time I ever preached at Grace Lutheran Church. I had tentatively signed on as a consultant with the church to help them think through the implementation of adult spiritual formation in the wake of their Focus 20/20 project. God used Pastor Mark and this congregation to love me and my family back into ministry.
That summer of 2010 I felt called to do three things that have changed my life:
First, I decided to add Youth Ministry to my list of responsibilities and go full-time on staff. The photograph above shows the four confirmation classes and the two mission trips that I have had the privilege to know. I am currently working with my fifth group of confirmands. The youth and youth staff at Grace have a special place in my heart. It is so wild to see many of them in college now. Yikes, I’m getting old!
Second, I decided to transfer my ordination into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The process took two years and I was officially rostered and installed at Grace in November of 2012. Now I get to wear all the Lutheran pastor bling! I am honored to be rostered among this ancient-future expression of the body of Christ. I look forward to helping it move into increasingly missional expressions in the coming decades.
Third, I decided to apply to the PhD program at Luther Seminary in the Congregational Mission and Leadership department. I was accepted in March of 2011, passed my entrance exams that August, and have been working diligently ever since. I plan to submit my final dissertation within the next few weeks. I’ve blogged about it the whole time here.
I reflect, again, on the photo above. The plaque hanging on the wall plays a special part in this whole story. The towel that hangs there was given to me by the faculty at Bethel Seminary in 2002, upon the completion of a Masters of Divinity. The towel represents the cloth that Jesus wrapped around his waist when he washed the disciples’ feet. The verse says, “we hold this treasure in jars of clay.” The wooden plaque itself was built by my father, who is both a pastor and my mentor. It is fitting that the towel that represents my service as a pastor hangs on the frame built by my father–both my biological father and my Heavenly Father.
This plaque reminds me that we are simply broken, clay vessels, seeking nothing more than to overflow the love of God to all that we encounter. My Dad introduced me to Pastor Mark and encouraged me to join the staff at Grace, pursue the ELCA, and get a PhD. I have met for coffee with my Dad every week during these five years and he has patiently mentored me along the process.
I am thankful to God for the gift of my father, and for the gift of Grace.