I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Called Together”. This past weekend I traveled back to Oregon to participate in the ordination of my friend to the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In layman’s terms it means I went to be there as my friend became a Lutheran priest. It was kind of a whirlwind trip. I arrived late Friday night (really early Saturday morning) after four airports, three hours of driving, two mountain passes, and one little rental car.
The sanctuary was packed for the worship service. There were people from quite a few churches, states, ages, denominations, and faiths. It was a sacred moment in the life of my friend and in the life of the wider church. It was an honor to be there.
My friend and I had worked together for years before I came to Nebraska City and had done some pretty radical things in ministry. He has been active in social justice issues in the community, mission of the church, and the faith formation for youth in Central Oregon for ten years. Only recently has he graduated from seminary and been called to be a mission developer in the Oregon Synod of the ELCA.
The worship service itself was very emotional and it caused me to reflect on my own service of ordination and my own call to the pastorate. The thing that struck me was not about successes or failures I’ve had in ministry or in big plans that God has for me or the church I serve. As my friend, newly ordained tearfully thanked those in attendance, his parents, his sister, his mentors, his students, his church family, his wife and children I was reminded that none of us get where we are by ourselves.
I saw this quote by former Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, this week:
“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody - a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns - bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”
It reminded me that as a father, as a pastor, as a community member that I need to pass on the boot straps to those that I can, I need to be receptive to those who are passing boot straps to me, and that, hopefully, my children will be surrounded by people who support them in their journey to wherever it is they are going. It will take more bootstraps than my wife and I can pass on, it will take help from relatives, neighbors, church members, pastors, teammates, teachers, and friends for them to live into fully the person that God has called them to be.
I said a few weeks ago, that the parents are the primary source of faith development in their children. I still believe that is true, but that doesn’t mean they should be all alone. We are all in this together. Our successes and our failures are tied together, if we are to be a community, a true community, we must work together to support one another, to guide each other, and to stand for one another.
There is an Nguni Bantu philosophy, “ubuntu” that means, “I am because we are.” We are connected, we are tied together, and we can help one another, if we only acknowledge our connectedness.
Favorite: Reconnecting with my friends from Oregon and standing with my friend as he took the vows to be a pastor.
Not Favorite: Missing my family that couldn’t go with me.