A Homily for the Ordination of a Presbyter by the Rev. Mitchell Lewis*
Texts: 1 Peter 5:1-4; St. John 21:15-19
I am Andrew’s father, a United Methodist pastor in the North Georgia Conference. And I appreciate Bishop Gordy allowing me to stand in this pulpit tonight as you prepare to set Andrew apart for the work of a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
When Andrew was 2 years old, I began a 27 year career as an Army chaplain, from which I’ve just retired. So you can do the math. My first assignment was at Fort Leonard Wood, and we took Andrew to a Lutheran preschool in St Robert, Missouri. I’m not sure if that started him down the road to Wittenberg or not.
Throughout his life, Andrew sat under all sorts of preaching and teaching in chapel worship and youth groups. He heard Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Catholics, non-Denominational evangelicals, parachurch groups, and so forth. The Army chaplaincy is a real smorgasbord of Christian religion. And there was a point, when I was assisting a Lutheran congregation on post, that Andrew probably heard the phrase “simul justus et peccator” every Sunday.
As you might imagine, a lot of that has changed during the ongoing pandemic. Sure, there are still sermons to write and pastoral care to be done. At its most basic level, ministry goes on.
But the daily work of ministry? It’s different. In the ELCA, we call pastors “Ministers of Word and Sacrament” — but right now, the Word is proclaimed through a camera lens, and we’ve had difficult (at times, contentious) discussions about what Sacramental ministry looks like when the Church is meeting in cyberspace.
So what is it I’m doing now that I’m not behind the Altar and can’t climb into the pulpit?
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, a mighty Savior raised up for us from the House of David. Amen.
What can we say about John the Baptist, that wild man of the wilderness? He who ate locusts and wild honey, wearing ragged clothes?
It’s a bit unusual to encounter outside of Advent and Christmas – our lectionary cycle usually gives him a Sunday or two in December as the forerunner of the Messiah and then a few weeks later, on the first Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, recalling when John baptized his younger cousin in the river Jordan. But why now, almost exactly six months away? Continue reading “Go Before the Lord to Prepare His Ways”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us out with authority to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Amen.
Preachers, myself included, like to give the disciples a hard time. You’ve heard me say this before – that Peter, James, John, and the other nine so often miss the point of what’s really going on. Jesus says one thing, and the Twelve immediately do just the opposite – often to comedic effect.
Silly sons of Zebedee, don’t you realize that the first will be last and the last will be first?
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Great Shepherd who sends us out to tend to the flock. Amen.
Christ is risen, has sent Mary to proclaim this Good News, appeared to the apostles, and even to Thomas. So – as many pastors have asked – now what? Or, in concretely Lutheran terms, “What does this mean?” Continue reading ““Tend My Sheep””→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us out to fish for people. Amen.
When I was younger, I loved fishing. Or at least, I thought so.
On summer days, my sister and I would hop in the truck with our grandpa and drive out to a local pond to try our hand. Even in the July Georgia heat, we would beg and beg and beg to go fishing. Mind you, neither my sister nor I were very good at it; my sister recalls that we went fishing more than we went catching. And like any small child at the pond, we were loud, quick to pester each other and unlikely to leave our lines in the water for even a second before re-casting. But my grandpa was never one to scold us for our impatience or being loud enough to scare away every fish within five miles. And growing up, our Gospel reading today connected with those memories of summer days with grandpa, sitting under the tree. Fishing for people? Sounds great. Continue reading “Gone Fishin’”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has come to proclaim freedom to the captives. Amen.
The lectionary has dropped us today in the middle of a chapter and in the middle of a story already in progress. Think back with me to a few weeks ago. We read St. Luke’s account of Christ’s baptism where the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in the form of a dove. And then – well, then Luke interrupted the story with a list of Jesus’ ancestors. But the next event, which starts our present chapter, follows closely on the heels of Christ’s baptism. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Jesus endures these demonic assaults, and Satan “departed from him until an opportune time.”
“Then,” as we read last week, Jesus, still “filled with the power of the Spirit” began teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee. He entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, and read from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He gave the scroll back to the attendant, sat down, and gave one of the world’s shortest sermons: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
And this brings us up to date for today. How did the people react to such an odd sermon?
It’s remarkable to sit back and think about this past summer and the historic wave of women elected to the episcopacy within the ELCA. In less than fifty years (forty-eight this month), the mainline Lutheran tradition went from not ordaining women to going six-for-six on new bishops.
Let that sink in: fifty years ago, women were not ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Now, they make up just over a quarter of our Conference of Bishops.
Most parishioners see their clergy for two hours once a week. What is it that we do with the rest of our week? What do pastors do when they aren’t in the pulpit? What do deacons do when they’re not setting the Altar?
As one person asked me, “What is ‘work’ for you?”
I’ve gotten this question from a lot of people — but strangely never any members of my own parish. It’s almost as though folks are nervous to ask their own pastors but really, really want to know.
Before we dive in, though, some caveats:
Every pastor or deacon will have a different answer based on areas of expertise, theological perspective, and setting. Someone called to youth and family ministry will answer differently from a solo pastor who will answer differently from someone on a synod/diocesan staff. An Episcopal priest will have a different answer from a United Methodist elder. A priest serving in downtown Manhattan will divide their time differently from the pastor serving three churches in rural South Dakota.
I serve a part-time call. This necessitates that I delegate more work than a full-time pastor or deacon.
I’ve been at this for just about a year now. I bet I’ll have a different answer in a year and in five years and in a decade and when I retire. Or at least, I’ll probably have different wording.
So, what is it that I do when I’m not in the pulpit?