First Sunday After Ordination to the Priesthood

Katherine Dougherty, Priest in Charge
Sermon Text: 

Advent 2 – December 10, 2017 - Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8

First Sunday After Ordination to the Priesthood

         A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

         A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will save me.”

         As his neighbors were evacuating, they came by his house and said, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

         As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a raft paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and get into our raft – there is room for you, and the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, I am sure that if it gets too bad, God will save me.”

         The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room, and the man had to retreat to the second floor.  A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted.  But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

         The floodwaters rose higher and higher forcing the man to climb up through his attic and onto his rooftop.

         Luckily, a helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue worker came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, "Grab my hand and I will pull you up!"  But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! I know that God will protect me!”

         Shortly after, the house broke apart, and the floodwaters swept the man away, and he drowned.

         After he died, the man stood before God perplexed and upset.  He said to God,  “I put all of my faith in you. Why didn’t you come and save me?  How could you leave me out there all alone?  I thought you loved me.”

         And God said, “Dear beloved child of mine, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a raft. I sent you a motorboat. I even sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”[1]

              So, yesterday was kinda of a big day for me and for us as a community.  In the weeks leading up to my Ordination, I found myself reflecting on this call and on this journey.  When asked, I have usually said that it was the rector of my church who encouraged me to discern ordained ministry.  In thinking back though, I can spot other places in my life where God nudged me or placed someone in life, who encouraged me towards areas of ministry.  I’ve found comfort in those memories  - I can see how some of the pieces fit together now.  And I can’t tell you how incredibly happy I felt yesterday and still do today.  I am now very thankful for all those nudges from God.  Even the really hard ones where I’m pretty sure God didn’t just nudge me but full out pushed me.

              I can’t say I always felt that way.  In the midst of discerning how God was calling me, I had some tough days.  Looking back now, I see how I kept testing this call.  I’d say things like, “Well God, if you’re truly calling me, then you’ll make it obvious,” and then I’d have some random person say to me, “Have you ever considered being a minister – you should really look into that.”   I’d joke about it and try to blow it off, but if I were to be honest, the wrestling match, that I was having with God, hurt.  What I came to realize was I wasn’t testing whether I was called to ministry.  I was testing God, and I found being out of sync with God… hurts.  I was that man from the story, who turned away every opportunity God offered until I almost drowned.

              Last week lots of people asked me if I was nervous for my ordination…if I was scared.  I realized I wasn’t.  I had been scared for years.  I had been scared from the minute my rector said he felt God was calling me somehow.  I was scared on and off throughout this process of discernment and meetings and seminary.  Over and over again, God asked me to be vulnerable and to push beyond my comfort zone.

              As I approached my ordination and throughout the service yesterday, I felt joy!  My heart leapt as we made the turn into the sanctuary and heard all the voices singing.  I was so happy and excited that I was ready to run around the church hugging people and thanking everyone for coming.  As the congregation and all the clergy chanted Veni Sanctus Spiritus, calling the Holy Spirit to come be with us, I cried.  I cried for all the times people had encouraged me to trust God…I cried for all the times I turned away from God and said no…I cried because I know God loves me dearly even though there are plenty of days I don’t deserve it…and I cried with great joy for all the love and grace that was filling that room and for all the wonderful people who came to share in our day.

              God calls all of us in many different ways.  Nudges from God aren’t always big, but they can be life changing.  They might be those thoughts that keep wandering around in the back of your mind that you push down from time to time.  They might be those things you just happen to notice – pay attention to for a moment and then move on from, but for some reason you find yourself thinking about it.  They might be those relationships that keep wandering back into your lives and you’re not sure why.

              God keeps reaching out to us and encouraging us to trust and follow.   In our readings today we hear Isaiah and John the Baptist declare, “prepare ye the way of the Lord.”   That can seem like a really big task – one you would never imagine yourself being called to do.     

         But here’s some great news…the way is not ours.  We don’t have to figure out all the details or determine where we go next – our job is to trust that God is there with us and to pray for God’s guidance and strength.  God IS calling you.  And by turning to God and saying, “yes – here I am God, show me the way,” you may just open yourself and your life up in glorious ways you could never imagine. 

         So I ask each of you, Where in your life is God nudging…you?


[1] anonymous 

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