Psalm 78:70-72 (NIV)
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his
people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he lead them.
**italics for my own depth of meaning
So I was asked recently what my ministry moving forward might look like. Part of this conversation was also about tracing my past and looking for the nudges or signs that may be or may have been pointing me towards a call that though seemingly new, perhaps isn’t. What moves me? Why is there freedom for me in this call?
So, I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it. The thing is, ministry has been my life for pretty much my entire life. I feel like the decisions I’ve made and who I am are all because of ministry and living out my life as a child of God. A Christian.
I need to go back and read my journals, because I would probably gain much insight in doing so, but without going there yet (since this would require unearthing them-I’ve been journaling since a very young age), it occurs to me that I’ve had leadership roles in ministry since I was a teenager. I’ve never really considered this.
When I was a member of the Church of Christ, I was actually a teen leader, given the role of discipler (a Christian mentor of sorts) to others. I attended church leadership meetings, prayed, went to Bible study, church services and youth group. This was just all a part of my regular life. I was 15-16 years old.
Later, when I became friends with Father Mike and started learning, studying and falling in love with the Roman tradition, I was lead to volunteering my time and talents as a musician. Leading the music during the mass and later helping plan mass for special occasions, such as weddings and funerals as well as holidays was just part of my life.
Then, when I was asked to consider being a section leader for the choir at Union Church in Hinsdale (UCC denomination), I was again in a leadership role, serving the church through music. Helping church members, family, friends and acquaintances with music and scripture for weddings and/or funerals became part of my normal life. It was common for me to do 3-4 services a weekend at church.
Through nursing school and living in Michigan this continued. Different parishes, but somehow I found myself doing the same ministry. Somehow ministry in the church and ministry at the bedside intertwined quite well…naturally, even. The first time I assisted a priest from prelude to recessional for a service, I was 20 years old. I’ve been doing this ever since. I find true joy and love in this work. So, when I think about what ministry might look like as a priest, it looks like this…
Being with, teaching and sharing with those around me the joy and security I have found as a child of God and hopefully imparting some of this love, hope and faith to others.
It’s holding the hand of someone leaving this life and moving to the next, providing whatever solace and comfort I may – singing, holding or just being present. [Blessing]
It’s planning the funeral of that same person, beloved of God, with the faith that there is LIFE after death. [Blessing]
It’s meeting at the table every week, perhaps more, and sharing a sacred meal. A reminder of the grace and life bestowed on us, through us and in us, because we are loved that much.
It’s sharing the joys of new life (pregnancy, birth, baptism) and sharing God in the midst of it all. [Blessing]
It’s skipping dinner because someone is hurt, broken or hurting and needs support. It’s making sure we both get dinner afterwards.
I’ve only touched bits and pieces, but these ring loud and clear for me. I think this is actually parish ministry, pastoral ministry, shepherding. I’ve done some of this work in the ICU, in another house. But, if God can call David from the sheep pens to shepherd and lead his people…I suppose it’s not so far off for God to call a nurse from the hospital to minister in a parish.
With regards to this seeming freedom I have with this call. I’m not as free as one might think. I’ve struggled, cried, fought and asked God what on earth he was thinking?!?! But, when it all comes down to it. I love God with my entire being. I trust this God more than anyone else. I believe God has a plan, not to harm, but for hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
As the lyric comes quickly from A Living Prayer by Alison Krauss
In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee.
I’ve been singing this prayer for years now with my entire being. Giving my life to God, who has given it to me, feels humbling…but also secure and natural. I have always been his.
I’ll close with this hymn based on Psalm 5:8
Lead Me, Lord
Music by: Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness,
make Thy way plain before my face.
For it is Thou, Lord, Thou Lord only,
that makest me to dwell in safety.
Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy holiness,
teach me to love and trust in Thee.
Thou art our God, the God of our salvation,
all nations shall praise Thy holy name.
Blessings and Peace to you this day. May you find hope, clarity and faith in your own journey today.