We install and ordain elders on the Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. It is an opportunity to highlight how serving in the church is a continuation of our baptismal calling. We also celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which serves as a great teaching moment about sacraments in general. It is a Three-Ring Circus Sunday, but that just means a shorter sermon for me to prepare!
This year we ordained a youth elder who has grown up in the church. I didn’t baptize her, but I have been here during that time period when little kids stretch into teenagers. I was part of her confirmation journey, have been to some of her theater plays, and watched her interest in missions grow into committed service to a ministry which feeds those who are homeless and to mission trips to a Christian School for the deaf in Jamaica.
As is customary in a Presbyterian service of ordination, the great cloud descended upon her at the laying on of hands, with both active and inactive elders taking part. I stepped back to give people room and saw her dad hurrying down to “get a good spot” – having been ordained as elder and Minister of the Word and Sacrament. Everyone made way so that he could directly lay hands on her. We prayed, we even cheered, and we hugged as the organist began to play hymn #525: “Here I am, Lord”.
As I made my way back to my hymnal and watched the 2 elders, father and daughter, walking back to their pew, I was struck by a realization… an epiphany of sorts. Not only had I seen this elder grow from girl to young woman, I knew her dad before she was a twinkle in his eye!
My dad went to seminary as a 2nd career student. I was in high school, and my dad and her dad were classmates at what was then Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, now Union Presbyterian Seminary. Her mom went to The Presbyterian School of Christian Education next door and my parents had them over for dinner one night! Back then, if you would have told me that I would be a minister someday I would have either laughed in your face or slapped you for saying such a thing… and the thought of being their minister… ridiculous!
Just as ridiculous as God’s mysterious ways, bobbing and weaving throughout our lives and our world. You just never know what new people or opportunities God will introduce or which old ones God will pick up and bring to your path again later.. but we trust like Paul did in Romans, that it is for the good of those who love Him!
Then the tears came, and in our church, once one starts crying, then everybody else starts crying … good thing it is a long hymn!
I thought to myself, “Man, Loli, you’re getting old,” but quickly corrected myself, “I’m not THAT old!! …I’m just THAT blessed.”
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
God of Eternity, you hold our future, our present, and our past in your care. Thank you for your faithfulness and your goodness. Help us to recognize the immediate ways that you are at work within and around us. Give us the grace and the faith to trust in your plan for our lives as they fit into your redemptive plan for all of creation. We ask in Christ’s name, Amen.
Lolimarta Ros Reiter, or as most of her friends know her, Loli, ministers alongside the fine folks at The Presbyterian Church of Seffner outside of Tampa, FL. She was born in Puerto Rico but has lived on the mainland since she was 9. Her daughter Isabel (9 years old) wants you to know her mom is funny; Olivia (6 years old) wants you to know she likes to talk about God…a lot; and John, her husband, wants you to know that she is the best wife, ever…Such a smart man! She looks forward to being in cyber-community with you.