It was 38 years ago on September 5, 1982 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Endicott, Washington that I was ordained into a ministry of Word and Sacrament. It’s been a long, joyous and sometimes strange journey that has taken me throughout the United States to be a pastor, a shepherd of the flock as they say. When this day rolls around each year my thoughts are taken back to that tiny community, population under 400, my thoughts go back to the people of that time and place. For it is the people there who really sent me along this way. They along with the presence of God first given me in my baptism have guided me along this long road. I could not be whom I am without their presence and support.
It was my parents, shown with me above, who first made sure they kept the promises made on my behalf at that baptism. Yes, they made sure I learned all that stuff, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, and the Ten Commandments that seem to be somewhat the heart of the matter from a faith perspective. Yet, they did more than that. They placed me into a community that was trying to live out its faith in the real world. Those people added to the mix of my faith.
It was my Grandma Repp who upon seeing me stand on her step stool and tell her the Sunday School lesson that day told me in her heavy German accented voice that, “Someday you’re going to be a pastor!” I was three years old at the time.
It was my Sunday School teachers and my pastor who nurtured that idea and no doubt prayed for me as I went off, first to Texas Lutheran College and then Trinity Lutheran Seminary that made it possible to take up this vocation that has been filled with both joy and extreme hurt, but always I knew they were with me.
It was my cousin Alene who made that first stole I’m wearing in the picture, hand stitched by her in the weeks before my ordination.
It was my aunts and uncles who gave me the cross I still wear each Sunday when I lead worship. It was the prayers and support of the community that helped make it all possible. I did not do it alone, there were professors, pastors and colleagues who also made this ordination possible, they challenged me and helped me to grow beyond that Sunday School faith.
It is true that when one is ordained that pastors and now a bishop, are there to “lay hands” upon the candidate. Yet, without those lay people, without the people of Endicott, WA. Without the Spirit of the Lord guiding them as they guided me I wouldn’t be where I am. So I always felt that it wasn’t just the 6 pastors who were placing their hands upon me that day, but the whole community of God gathered in that place.
I believe that is still true today, even now as a semi retired pastor, as I’m starting a part time Interim at Grace Lutheran in Mountain Home in a couple of weeks that it will be the community that sustains me and them. We cannot do this faith journey alone. Without the presence of the community sustained by God’s presence my ministry would have been all about me, and not about what I was to be about, loving others, both friends and foes, with a holy love.
So on this day I remember them all. Most who helped shape me are gone now, but I remember the gift they were to me and that remains alive even though they have died. The gift they gave me is truly priceless. Thanks be to God!