Yesterday I celebrated 25 years of ordination to the ministry of word and sacrament. It's been a time of highs and lows. A time of failures and successes. A flood of faces I have been honored and privileged to serve. I see each church in which I have ministered. Over these years I can affirm that God has been faithful, loving and merciful through it all. I am humbled and grateful for such precious experiences that have blessed my life.
During the week that led up to my ordination there was an incident that would become a defining moment in my ministry. On Tuesday before my ordination the preacher for the event called me and had to cancel. Suddenly I had four days to find a preacher for my ordination. Who would agree to preach on such short notice.
Near in tears and despair, I spoke to one person after another. The request was graciously declined. It was just too soon, no time to really prepare. As a gamble I reached out to one of my favorite Seminary professors, Dr. Kosuke Koyama. Dr. Koyama was the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor Emeritus of World Christianity at Union Theological Seminary. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosuke_Koyama). It was crazy -- how would this renowned theologian possibly agree to preach for a former student with no great credentials with less than a week to go? We had stayed in touch, and he took an interest in the homeless ministry in which I was involved at the time. Unbelievably he said yes.
I wish I could tell you what he said. Even a word. It was such a whirlwind of a day and my mind was all over the place. However what is etched in my heart is the deed of kindness this great man did for me, without fuss without fanfare. It reminds me of Maya Angelou's observation: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That was the greatest gift about ministry that I learned that week, 25 years ago. It's all about how we care for each other. Memories fade, it's easy to forget an exact saying. However, how those words and deeds transforms our heart. That's what Jesus does. Even if we don't have scripture memorized, or don't remember all his deeds, the ultimate fact that Jesus changes our lives is the end result, and that's what ministry is about. That's what I strive for, daily, 25 years going strong.
Since I cannot celebrate this milestone with you in person, I'd like to invite you to donate whatever you can to your local food pantry - The Long Island Council of Churches Freeport Food Pantry (http://www.licc-ny.org/home.html) served at least 67,000 persons, over 600,500 meals in 2020, doubling its numbers from 2019. Please visit their website and if you can, make a donation, as I will, in memory of Dr. Koyama, who taught me to see Christ in all peoples and cultures. God bless you and I am grateful that you are in my life.