The number 14 has always been my lucky number. It was emblazoned on my soccer jersey, it is the date of both mine and my oldest daughter’s birth, and today, August 5, 2021, I celebrate my 14th year of Pastoral Ministry.
August 5, 2007 was a joyous day! The culmination of many years of study and preparation. Seminary had its share of challenges and pastoral formation was not as easy as I had expected it to be, and so I was overjoyed for that great day.
But it was also a difficult day for my family. My 91 year old Grandma had come down to Florida to witness the big event. She was proud of my accomplishments and had prayed for me each day of my pastoral formation. Her regular letters and support meant the world to me as I studied to become a Pastor. She felt compelled by the Spirit to be there for me, so she made the trip from Minnesota to Florida.
The day prior to my Ordination was perfect. My Grandmother saw the beach, she touched the Gulf of Mexico, and enjoyed the day with my entire family who all came for the occasion. We enjoyed wine smoothies on the beach, authentic Mexican food, and enjoyed everything the left coast of Florida had to offer.
It was important for grandma to be there. She wanted to see me be ordained. Not many people have the opportunity to see an ordination with all its tradition and ritual, much get to see a family member go through it, so it was a big deal. But that night, Grandma had a severe stroke. My wife and I spent the night in the hospital by her side. We prayed and asked God for healing, but healing would never fully come on this side of heaven. The next morning I preached for the three Sunday services, with bags under my eyes – I know it was not my best sermon.
Later that afternoon I was ordained. Fourteen brother pastors came from not only Florida, but other states, too. The service was beautiful. It was moving. The brother pastors read Scripture and prayed, laying their hands on me, as it goes in the Rite of Ordination.
The preacher called me a cracked pot in his sermon which brought some much needed laughter to the day.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
My parents cried, my in-laws looked at me with pride, and my wife’s firm grasp on my hand kept me grounded in the magnitude of the day.
But grandma missed it. She didn’t get to see me become a Pastor.
For the first several months of Pastoral Ministry, my grandma was hospitalized in the Tampa area. She went through rehab, but never regained much movement or the ability to communicate clearly. No more letters would come from her hand. She did live several more years, and got to meet my two oldest daughters before she passed away in 2013 – just shy of her 97th birthday.
Grandma didn’t get to witness my Ordination, but she was the first hospital visit that I made as a called and Ordained Servant of the Word. It brought tears to my eyes that Monday morning to visit her in the hospital, decked out in my clergy shirt and armed with my brand new traveling communion kit and the service of Communion for the Sick and Infirm (the same kit and the same service I use now, 14 years later).
Grandma may not have seen me become a Pastor, but she saw me in action as a Pastor. And perhaps, that was more meaningful to her than seeing the Rite of Ordination. For the next several months I had the opportunity to be both grandson and pastor to my ailing grandmother. It was in this manner, that the Lord began my ordained service to His bride, the Church.
For the past 14 years the Lord has seen fit to bless me with serving His Church with His precious gifts of Word and Sacrament. I can’t even begin to count the number of hours I’ve spent at the bedsides of those who are in need, or the time spent delivering Word and Sacrament to those who are sick and infirm. While not an easy part of the Pastoral Office, it is one that I know to be so very precious, especially to the one who finds themselves in need of such a visit. Visiting my own grandmother helped me to see the value and need for those visits, even when the individual may not even realize what is taking place.
In 14 years of ministry, I have made hundreds, maybe thousands of visits. There have been hours of conversations. Some visits have been more difficult than others; some visits were punctuated with laughter, others with tears.
The Pastoral Ministry often places God’s Called and Ordained servants into both the happiest and saddest (or most difficult) moments of people’s lives. My own family included. There is more to this vocation than just sermon writing, teaching, and counseling. In every and in all places where God sends His ministers He sends them with the precious treasure of His Word and Sacrament, contained in the simple vessel of a Pastor’s presence and spoken word. Even a Cracked Pot like me!
It truly is just as Paul declares in 2 Corinthians.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” ( 2 Corinthians 4:7-11)