Good morning! Here we go with Monday again!
Today’s scripture: Numbers 27:15-23 (NRSV)
15 Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” 18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; 19 have him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. 20 You shall give him some of your authority, so that all the congregation of the Israelites may obey. 21 But he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the decision of the Urim before the Lord; at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the Israelites with him, the whole congregation.”22 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation; 23 he laid his hands on him and commissioned him—as the Lord had directed through Moses.
I remember my ordination very clearly. I was ordained in June of 2009. So I have been a bit reflective about it lately as I am in the 5th year of being ordained as an Elder in the UMC. I had been commissioned three years before my ordination. I was serving in Corvallis as the Associate Pastor at the UMC. I was ordained with three other people. In the United Methodist Church we are ordained at the gathering of the conference by our bishop. People from all over gather in the same space to support those who are answering this call and are being set apart (the meaning of ordination) for this work.
I remember being nervous about all of the logistics. We were in this large auditorium and there was quite a bit to remember. I wasn’t first in the line up to kneel so my head was racing. My parents stood with me…as well as my mentor, my district superintendent and another colleague who has been chosen family to me over the years.
I knelt down. I remember the most amazing sound then because in this auditorium you could hear when people got up. The seats flipped up. People could stand for those they came to support. I could hear all of the seats start to flip up. I was overwhelmed by the support and love just exuding from down below. Our Bishop turned off his mic and said, “Courtney. Look up. It’s happening.” My people gathered around laid their hands on me and our bishop put his hand on my head and said the stuff he needed to say. This is when the moment is supposed to be but I had already had my moment of ordination. It happened the minute people stood up around me and my community laid their hands on me.
God tells Moses to ordain (to set apart for the work of God) Joshua to lead the people. There is a ritual to this movement. Moses must lay hands on him in front of the religious authority. But the other piece and to me most important piece of this is that the congregation must be gathered around. Only then will they follow this leader who has been asked to do God’s work. To be set aside to do the work of God in the world takes Moses, the religious body, and the entire community to do the work. For Joshua to be a decent leader from here on out, he has to remember this. He can’t forget those moments of being commissioned and sent out to lead the people who surround him during his commissioning.
We have a gathering called the Order of Elders and we meet in October every other year. This year, near the end of our time, we remembered our ordination vows. This time, we were all together remembering rather than just a few of us up in front. I found this to be a very powerful experience. Some people have been ordained many more years than my 5 and I got to stand with them and re choose this particular call. Some people really couldn’t do it. They could not renew this time. I loved the moment when we realized that we were not alone in this.
Many of us talked about how meaningful that became for us, that moment. How powerful to remember what you have covenanted with each other and with God!
This is not just for clergy by the way. You were set apart to do work in the world. God has commissioned you to be in the world and be a child of God, working to better the community. And you are surrounded by many who are eager to affirm your call. I know many of you have professions that are your ministry, your passion, where the world’s deep hunger and your deep passion meet. Many of you work for pay and then your passions play out in the other hours of your day. This is what you were called to do. Some of you are still finding where God is calling or that may be shifting. That is awesome. God is not stagnant and neither are we…are calls should constantly change.
Today remember who is standing with you, who is laying hands upon you, and look up because it is all happening.