19 years ago today I was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Today, we’re called Teaching Elders.
For what it’s worth, here’s a little of what I have learned/experienced over the last 19 years.
God keeps getting bigger, and I keep getting smaller. And that’s a good thing.
19 years ago, I was going to save the world. I was going to be an Admiral in the Navy, serve as Chief of Chaplains, counsel presidents, write books, be recognized as a distinguished alum of both my seminary and my university. My junior high teachers would lie and say things like, “I always knew he was special.”
Today, I’m pretty happy to know that some people have food, shelter, and clothing because of some of the work I’ve been involved in. It’s not a matter of settling; it’s a matter of recognizing that God is doing some pretty amazing things in some pretty ordinary places.
The Bible is the best picture we have of what God has done/is doing in the world. But God will still not be limited by the book.
I love the Bible. I love the connections I find in that book to my life, and I do believe it is the living word of God. But I do not believe it is the full picture of God. The Creator of the universe could not be hemmed in by anything humans created, even if God told them to create it.
If someone were to ask me what the Bible is all about, before I got to the love of God, before I ever mentioned Jesus as the Savior of the world, I would say this: There is a God, and I am not It.
The Church, at its best, is a powerful expression of the love of Christ in this world. At its worst, it will drive more people away from God than 1,000,000 Black Sabbath albums played backwards.
We have a tremendous responsibility in the Church, and we represent more than we ever should. When we lead with fear and hatred, some people don’t see that message as coming from us, but from the God we represent.
On the other hand, when my dad was rebuilding homes in Mississippi after Katrina, one of the residents told him the government wasn’t going to rebuild their town; the Church was. That’s pretty cool.
We could play the game of you telling me a mean church story and me telling you a nice church story. And we’d both be right. But I’ll take the tutoring, mentoring, sheltering, feeding, clothing, and building programs from the Church over their absence any day.