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Thursday, February 1st, 2018
In Daniel Erlander’s book, Baptized, We Live, he helps us to think about what it means to be baptized. One of the more interesting statements he makes is that in baptism we “are ordained – set aside to be a minister” (p. 7). A minister, just to clarify, is a servant, and to ordain is to invest with ministerial or priestly functions (according to at least one dictionary…).
Part of the reason that Daniel Erlander would say such a thing is that as Lutherans, we acknowledge the priesthood of all believers. In other words, every single person who is baptized can speak directly to God in prayer and can speak God’s word to others. We do not need a priest or a pastor to do that for us.
However, in order that things are “done decently and in order,” as the apostle Paul says (1 Cor. 14:39), some people are also ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. For ordination also has to do with arranging things in order.
There are parts of an ordination service that are very similar to confirmation (Affirmation of Baptism). After all, we are first called to service in our baptism. Just as confirmation includes the “laying on of hands” and a prayer for the Holy Spirit, so ordination involves the same things. The main difference in ordination is that there are usually several pastors and at least one bishop who are doing the laying on of hands.
At the same time, just as we are asked a number of questions when we affirm our baptism, so a number of questions are asked as part of the ordination service. However, there are more questions for one who is being ordained, as more of a commitment is being asked of the person. For example, somebody who is ordained is asked if they will preach and teach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, the creeds and the Lutheran Confessions.
Additionally, somebody is never ordained without a “call.” First of all, there is God’s call. Once again, God calls all of us into ministry, but God also calls some people to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Once a person has discerned God’s call, they must also be endorsed by their pastor and by their home congregation to begin seminary studies. Along the way, they are evaluated by seminary professors, a synod candidacy committee, an internship committee, and others. Once all of these groups have endorsed them, they are approved in order to seek a call to serve a congregation or other ministry. It is only once they have been called by God and the church that they can be ordained.
You will see in this newsletter that Lisa Janke will be ordained on Sunday, February 18th at Messiah Lutheran Church in Winnipeg. Lisa’s call is to serve as Co-Executive Director (along with Luke) at Shalom Hill Farm in Minnesota. This is a retreat center, and thus a different kind of ministry than a congregation would be. It is also a place where there will be abundant opportunities for Lisa to use her gifts for ministry.
It is both humbling and scary to be ordained. There is a weight of responsibility that goes with it. However, at the same time the Holy Spirit really does show up through the laying on of hands and prayer. The prayers of God’s people also help greatly. I am grateful every day for the people who pray for me day by day.
I close with what is sometimes called Luther’s sacristy prayer:
Lord God, Thou hast made me a pastor and teacher in the Church. Thou seest how unfit I am to administer rightly this great and responsible Office; and had I been without Thy aid and counsel, I would surely have ruined it all long ago. Therefore do I invoke Thee. How gladly do I desire to yield and consecrate my heart and mouth to this ministry! I desire ever to learn and to keep Thy Word my constant companion and to meditate thereupon earnestly. Use me as Thy instrument in Thy service. Only do not Thou forsake me, for if I am left to myself, I will certainly bring it all to destruction. Amen.
Pastor Lynne Hutchison