October marks "Clergy Appreciation Month."
I write not to garner compliments for the last 20 months of ministry as an ordained minister, but rather to give thanks for those who formed me to be the pastor I am today.
Divinity Lutheran Church was home. A small, loving congregation that encouraged, nurtured and loved me. The people of Divinity saw gifts in me that I couldn't even begin to articulate. The youth group was small but mighty; full of overnights, Easter breakfasts, fundraisers, and lots of laughter. We somehow fit together in the world of the church; in God's eyes we were special.
Divinity no longer exists as a worshipping community, but it still functions to bring good news and hope to a world in need of love and renewal. It is a funeral home. Divinity meant so much to me growing up that I contemplated being ordained in the funeral home. (Thanks to my mom for having the wisdom to talk me out of that idea!)
The building still stands. The people and pastors of Divinity still proclaim the good news. We are God's people on the move in the world.
I preached my first sermon at Divinity for a youth Sunday. I do not remember the text for the day, how we decided who was leading and organizing, what time of year it took place, or how I felt preaching and leading worship.
I do remember the words of wisdom from my pastor as he mentored and tutored me in the art of sermon crafting.
As a high schooler who knew what it meant to be a Christian, I was sure I preached a good sermon about how well I was doing serving and loving and being a disciple. I was sure I would make the members proud to hear all I was involved in and how I shared the good news with others.
Looking back now I realize how little I knew about this life of faith.
My pastor read my sermon and simply said, "What about preaching about what God is doing?"
God. Well, that would be an idea.
But I had written a sermon about what I and the church were doing for God's kingdom. I already took a lot of time to write and think and reflect on the sermon. I couldn't write another sermon.
"What about preaching about what God is doing."
God brought me to a community that knew about love and acceptance. God shared radical hospitality to all. God slowly stripped away my desire to be the best and brightest. God walked with me.
Thank you, pastor.
Thank you for the lesson that continues to reveal itself to me. Thank you for the reminder that the life of faith isn't about me, but about God.