quod pro nobis traditum est

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

on ordination

Some days are unforgettable. We remember our birthdays for the annual reminder of our change in age. We remember our confirmation day or the day of our First Communion. We remember graduating from high school or college. Husbands and wives remember their wedding date (and hopefully their anniversaries!)

Pastors remember when they are installed as pastor of a congregation. Yet one day that ought to be unforgettable for pastors is the day of their ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry. Installation services are more common than ordination services. Recently, I participated in a service that included both the ordination and installation of a pastor who had recently graduated from the seminary. Although I did not know the new pastor this was an opportunity to welcome him to the area and, more important, an opportunity to be part of a day that is set apart by the word of God and prayer for this young man's entrance into the holy ministry.

It is a privilege and honor for a pastor to be reminded of the day when he received his "holy orders." While participating in such a service might serve as a reminder of the pastor's age and how long ago it was when he was ordained, it is moreso a reminder to the pastor and the Church what the pastoral office is all about.

My ordination into the holy office, 15 years ago this July, was unforgettable in more ways than one. My father was involved as well as pastors from the area and the guest preacher from Florida. The service was at 3:00 in the afternoon. All went well and then a summer storm passed through Milwaukee during the service knocking out the lights in the church. Normally, the daylight would be sufficient but the sky was quite dark making it very difficult to see what was going on in the service. The pastors up front read the Holy Scriptures by candlelight at the altar and, without further use of the organ, the closing hymn was changed to the Common Doxology sung a cappella. The lights next door were out at the reception following the service. Rather than serve "as a sign of things to come" which was joked about, maybe half-seriously, this made a memorable day even more memorable (and which also fit well in scriptural terms of darkness and light). With all of the challenges that face churches in the city the holy ministry is the same as in other places.

Ordination is more than the day and the memories. Christ's work continues in His Church where the Lord chooses and uses men to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments (see, for example, Matt. 28, John 20; Augsburg Confession, Articles IV, V, XIV). The Church continues its life in the apostolic doctrine and tradition.

Ordination then is a beginning of Christ's ministry in flesh and blood among the faithful. The Apostle encourages the young pastor, Timothy, to take heed to the doctrine and the ministry - "the gift" - he has been given:
"Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." (1 Timothy 4:12-16)


William Weedon said...

Beautiful! Thank you so much for this wonderful piece. It is indeed a day that a pastor remembers - hauntingly so - and yet joyfully so as well. Holy orders are given: that is, the man is put under orders to order the life of the Church via the Gospel no matter what, and then prayer is raised that he faithfully fulfil this. We're carried along by that prayer far more than by our promises. But our promises are salutary to remember, the "yes" to God's marching orders. I remember the press of the hands as Pr. Hinz said: "I ordain and consecrate you to the office of the holy ministry in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Rev. Timothy May, M.Div., S.S.P. said...

Thank you! These words from your ordination, spoken with the press of the pastor's hands, are an excellent summary of what took place (and still does!) on that day - Holy Ministry, Holy Church, in the name of the Holy Trinity.