Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Bird's Nest

Today I preached in this sanctuary for the first time. The pulpit is high and I stand on a small stepstool to make sure I don’t look like a Kindergartner stuck in the limbs of a giant tree. I know that I am fairly new to the craft of preaching, but I would guess that the nerves stick around in new spaces throughout a preacher’s life.

Each time I meet a new congregation, I am humbled by the mystery that precedes me. What have they already heard? What do they need to hear again? What hurts them? What lifts them up? What wounds to they have that I could worsen with salt? Who will hear law and who will hear gospel? The view changes with each bird’s nest and layout. The sound changes depending on how far my voice is from the ceiling. The people change, needing to hear different things on different days.

My palms were sweaty as the adrenaline rushed through me before preaching. There is something in that anxiety that taunts me each time, tempting me to believe that I am truly in control of my words and then humbles me with a Holy Spirit Reality Check. I hope those butterflies never go away.

I saw my girlfriends in the pews, still lost in the bizarre wonder of their friend being ordained for this stuff. It must be amusing to see me at work and to watch me do things most young women do not. Their smiles and loving eyes remind me that this is all possible: I can be fully myself and fully pastor.

My goddaughter was there with her family, a sassy PK (pastor’s kid) whose dad had the morning off and wanted to check me out in action. The toddler, however, was less concerned with this congregation and my new role because she is currently obsessed with “Matt’s truck” and wanted to see it after worship.

This community is becoming more familiar each day and I feel at home whenever I can connect children to parents, husband to wife, name to face, or person to committee. Having coffee together after worship seems to speed this process nicely. While shaking hands, Pastor Mike Woods approached with an introduction that made my day. He said that Mary Hess, my advisor at Luther Seminary, had introduced him to my blog years ago. He was in town for a reunion during sabbatical and decided to find my congregation.

Mike told me that my writing reminds him of the person on the Verizon Wireless commercials, aware of the communion of saints and with a faithful posse backing me up. Looking around, I had proof that this is true. There were saints visible, my new parishioners and dearest friends, but also saints from far and wide I lean on when the nerves strike.

On July 27, the 8am service at Sierra Ev. Lutheran Church was notified by their intern that I was being ordained during the 10am service at Normandale in Edina - the same hour in Minnesota. I felt them lifting me up and that has made all the difference. I went to seminary because so many encouraged and stayed there because so many challenged. I’ve always thought that church is silly if it remains a social club for a local community and does not connect prayerfully and faithful to the greater church and world across time.

The Bible says that a pastor’s role is to equip the laity. If I can do no other good at St. John’s, I will teach people to recognize their gifts and to call out talents in others. I will invite people to participate and show them that God calls us in many ways to the missio dei. After all, that is what Word and Sacrament ministry is supposed to do and that is what it has done to me.

So thank you, Mike, for coming to visit and for naming the greatest blessing in my life – the saints I meet at the font and table and those I love so dearly that the Word gives me jitters.

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