Reflecting on My Ordination

November 1, 2011

Today, November 1, is the 24th anniversary of my ordination and installation. All Saints’ Day has carried special meaning for me during these years as a result. Alongside my own call to the pastoral ministry, each year I am made aware of the many who have gone before me in Christian ministry, among them Athanasius, Augustine of Hippo, Madame Guyon, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Evelyn Underhill, William Law, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and E. Stanley Jones. I have my own Hebrews 11 kind of roster of faithful servants cheering me on to this day; these are the ones who have prayed for me, walked with me through dark hours, asked me key questions along the way, assigned me jobs to do, affirmed my gifts, and given me a good kick in the rear end. On such a day, one is reminded that one is not alone in ministry; the communion of saints has genuine meaning; and life in their company is inspired and informed by the choices they made and the difficulties that shaped them. I am grateful to God for them all.

Many German Protestant churches adapted the design of the chancel area common in Catholic churches by surrounding the altar with busts, statues, or paintings of “the saints.” Some of these might be recognizable as biblical characters, some as historical figures like Martin Luther himself, and some as significant to the local population but unknown to us. This Christian art reinforced the awareness that all the saints are gathered in worship around the throne of Jesus Christ, and they are cheering the present generation of priests unto love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24f).

This reminder is particularly poignant this year, my fourth year of arguing through the PCUSA judicatories, that what the Scriptures have said and the saints have modeled is still authoritative and instructive to the choices and decisions we are making today. In the main, the vast majority of the saints since the Reformation have affirmed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, uniquely qualified as God-Man to die in our place for our sins; and in the resurrection of Jesus in ultimate victory over sin and death. They have lifted up Almighty God as Sovereign over all, creator of the universe, and final judge of all matters. They have believed in the Holy Spirit and appropriated his power to witness, his compassion to minister, and his courage to stand against all odds.

I long for the day when we all see Jesus face to face, and once and for all by his authority we know the truth that has governed our existence from the beginning of time. I believe this truth is revealed in the Scriptures and is recognizable to all who hear it with an open heart. But in That Day, there will no longer be a need for teachers (aha! no job for me!) because all people will know God by sight and his law will be written on their hearts. What God has been saying all along will be a part of us, and there will be no more arguments.

This year, for the first time since my ordination, I am seriously staring down the possibility that before I die I might have to disassociate myself with the PCUSA. This would not be because I have forsaken my vows, which I have taken very seriously. It is, in fact, because of those vows that I have engaged in the clarifying activities of the last few years. But when I have done everything a human being could do to stop and reverse the slide away from orthodoxy in practice, there may come a time to conclude that the church itself has forsaken its vow and is no longer the church in which I took mine. The sadness of this possibility already washes over my soul; and that alone keeps me motivated. I know that some of my colleagues in ministry have already come to this point, and perhaps I am foolish to think I might make a difference still. But in the spirit of Ephesians 6:10-19, I am standing.

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2 Responses to “Reflecting on My Ordination”

  1. Steve Frank, currently in Spokane WA Says:

    Congratulations and blessings on this anniversary, blessings for many more years through which you experience being blessed as Jesus’ blessing to others – which you are. I attest to being blessed by you and through you. I continue give thanks for you.


  2. Hi Mary! You don’t remember me but you helped me out of a very big predicament while you were pastor in Concord, CA. I moved to Spokane, got acquainted with Whitworth PC, Whitworth Univ. and am now a CRE(CLP, whatever) at a tiny church in N. Idaho. You still help me out as I go through the same questions as you re: my Elder ordination and my Commission. Keep writing , Mary and keep hanging in there. And congrats on the 24th anniv. I’m approaching my 5th as a CRE. Love in Christ, Dave Roser
    P.S. We shook hands in Minneapolis b4 you took ill.

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