Fifteen Years – Three Texts
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
The 31st of October 2019 will mark the fifteenth anniversary of my ordination into the ministry of the Word.
It was a cool autumn day long ago when I began my work in a congregation in the town of St. Albert, Alberta, Canada.
I could probably write a book about the inspiring joys and sanctifying challenges of fifteen years of working in Christ’s church, but I’ll limit myself by simply pointing to three passages from God’s Word that were significant on that day of ordination.
Maybe you noticed that I was ordained on Reformation Day, a most fitting day to officially begin the work of unfolding the Word as a preacher and pastor. Also very fittingly, the minister leading the ordination service chose to preach on Romans 1:16, a text that was near the heart of Martin Luther’s desire to return the church to the true gospel,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
In every age and every place it is a preacher’s privilege to share the dynamic power of the gospel with sinners, and to watch as God changes lives.
After the morning ordination, I preached my inaugural sermon that Reformation Day afternoon. I chose as my text Psalm 40:9-10,
“I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.”
I recently dug up my old sermon on Psalm 40 and here excerpt a few decent bits written by a 27-year old version of myself:
· The preacher of the Word has the beautiful task – and the obligation – to proclaim Christ crucified, and to teach others the way of following the one who rescued him personally, and who rescued all of God’s people. The great assembly of Christians needs to know how rich is this salvation.
· Every Sunday again, also in the “great assembly” of St. Albert, the servant of God will bring this faith-producing and faith-nurturing message of God. There will be a new text every Sunday, a new theme and points, a new story and a new focus, but the message will be the same. It will be the good news, news of gracious deliverance: God has lifted me out of the slimy pit, God has rescued me from the mud and mire, and has put me on solid ground!
· Who can do this work? Who is qualified to serve effectively and faithfully in the Lord’s service? Is it the one with eight years of academic training? Or is it the one with fifty years of life experience? Is it the one with the greatest charisma? The one who can serve is the one whom God has called. And that is the young minister, that is the experienced elder, that is every believer in the great assembly. As Paul says to the Thessalonian Christians, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thess 5:24).
The final passage which is wrapped up in my memories of ordination is Zechariah 4:6,
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
It wasn’t mentioned on the day, but this was a text which I had often thought about when I was preparing for the ministry and reflecting on whether I would really be able to do the work. As a gift to celebrate ordination, my dear wife gave me a framed picture of a sailboat with its sails full of wind—full of “spirit”—and moving bravely into the open water. And underneath the picture was this inspiring text.
Zechariah 4:6 is God’s words to Zerubbabel the priest as he leads the people through the trying time of rebuilding a ruined temple. It is a profound reminder about whose strength I desperately need in being a preacher and pastor. In times of proud self-reliance and overconfidence I have needed this humbling reminder, and in times of worry and weakness I have received much strength from this sure promise of God. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” The picture hangs in my study still.