Today marks the 20th Anniversary of my Ordination to the Ministry of Word & Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Hallmark does not make cards for this occasion. But still, I woke up to a tailor-made greeting card. On the front is a picture of myself, my mother and my aunt, sitting on a bench at the reception after my ordination service. We’re eating cookies and talking intently. I’m still wearing my brand-new black pulpit robe and the stole that my aunt and mother embroidered for me as a surprise gift. I was especially surprised by the gift since, to them, the ordination of women was a controversial subject and I wasn’t sure that they approved. Actually, I don’t think they were sure either. Perhaps they stitched their way into approval with that stole.
That stole, which has a white background and beautiful symbols, is the one I save for special occasions. It has seen countless baptisms, weddings, funerals, Christmases and Easters, in four states. I carefully wash it by hand. The black pulpit robe is just about worn out which seems surprising to me. I only wear it a few hours each week and not at all during the summer months. But everything wears, doesn’t it?
Twenty years ago I would have thought that by this time –when a minister has worn out a pulpit robe– she would know quite a bit about ministry.
I’ll tell you this today: it is a mysterious occupation.
Which is to say, I participate in the divine mystery. There are moments when God’s grandeur overwhelms me, or the grace of Jesus knocks me over with its magnitude, or the Spirit shows up like a whipping wind when I least expect it. Those are delicious, mysterious moments that remind me how little of this is about me. The rest of the time I’m cleaning out email, pondering the words of prophets, proofreading bulletins, talking to people about their concerns (which is to say, their loved ones), or trying to throw away pieces of paper without missing something the Spirit wants me to do. And, inevitably, as I drive somewhere, remembering the thing I forgot to do.
This morning after my husband surprised me with the card, he told me about his adventures at the Kodak kiosk at Target last night while I was at a Session meeting. We laughed about the reason he chose the “Hanukkah” background. We teased about other pictures he might have chosen, or captions he might have written. He commented that there was no photo from the ordination day which showed both of us with both of our daughters. The younger one was only nine months and the event was past her bedtime. She was pretty cranky. The older daughter was three, and hopped up on sugar and balloons. My husband might be surprised to know that my favorite photo from that day is of him, strapped into a diaper bag, holding a tired baby, and smiling.
There’s still a whole lot I don’t know about this job. But I do know what to hang onto. And I do know when I’m blessed.