This past Sunday I had the honor and privilege to administer my first baptism, immediately followed by my first confirmation at the church where I spent my teenage years. As a young pastor, both events carried a great deal of weight but also offered an incomparable experience of joy. Add to that the fact that I used to babysit the young lady being confirmed (she was baptized around the same time I myself was confirmed), and the experience was taken to another level!
In addition to these two joyous moments we also celebrated those women in our lives who have nurtured us and helped us to answer God’s call. Unfortunately, we also prayed for a mother, a friend of the congregation, whose son was shot and killed the night before.
I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on that worship service. I have spent time praying for all of these individuals.
As pastors, we are welcomed into some of the most sacred moments of a person’s life– the most beautiful and the most dreadful. We are invited and we are called to embody God’s love and grace in these moments when a person needs that the most. We are urged to empower others to do the same, with both as little and as much as they have.
The text that I chose to preach on for this unique service was Matthew 28: 16-20, otherwise known as “The Great Commission”. The part that I love most about this text is that even in their doubt the Disciples went to the mountain to meet Jesus and even in their doubt, Jesus called and sent them to all nations.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Matthew 28: 16-20
The little boy who was baptized on Sunday, the young girl who was confirmed, the son was killed, the mother who mourned— each was called by God to change the world in some way. Each person’s story has helped to shape the life and story not just of that congregation but of all those who they have met along the way. Each story has been shared with me as a pastor so that I might bring God’s presence into their lives in a new way. Even in their doubt, even in our own doubt.
I am a part of a Facebook group called “Things They Didn’t Teach Us in Seminary”. This past Sunday was a perfect illustration of just that– they can tell us that we will be a part of big moments, they can tell us stories of their own experiences and others they have heard of, but no one can teach you or begin to prepare you for that morning when all curtains are pulled back and you see God’s presence in the most powerful way yet.
Following the baptism, I walked down the aisle carrying a little boy who had snuggled down so close against my chest that I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to hand him back. As I turned around to come back, the young girl being confirmed took him from me and carried him back to his parents. I took this time to pray for the mother who lost her son, praying for the words to share the tragic news with the congregation– doubting that I would have the right words to do so. In these moments, I walked with and carry a child of God through that sanctuary. In those moments, even as I doubted, I learned what it is like to truly minister to God’s children and watch God’s grace at work. I learned what seminary could have never taught me.
When has God used you, even in your doubt?
When have you seen the curtains drawn back in your own ministry?
What have you learned in active ministry that seminary could never teach?
Rev. Jordan B. Davis