Today I was officially installed at Bethel Lutheran in Aurora, CO as their intern pastor. I have the honor to serve this congregation for two years in this capacity. Pastor Barb (who has served as pastor there for ten years) used a beautiful “order of beginning” for my installation. The congregation and I made commitments to each other for ministry in God’s mission in the world for the next two years. Together, we hope to proclaim the gospel and serve God’s people. The song that we sang right before this segment of the service was “Here I am, Lord.” Here I am indeed, I thought! Now what!?
It’s not that I have never worked in a church before, I have. It’s not that I have never walked completely into the unknown before, I have. But when I have worked in the church previously, I held a specific position with specific and fairly clear duties: in children’s ministry you figure out Sunday school and family ministries, as an outreach director I invited people to worship and other activities and greeted them when they arrived, as a camp counselor you pretty much just have to keep from losing children, as a hospital chaplain you visit sick people and their families. But what are intern pastor duties? I will preach there starting this coming Sunday, so preaching: check. I suppose that people will need visited, so I will do that: check. Support the weekday preschool staff and families: check. But there is this nebulous description of “learning pastoral duties” from the course book from Luther Seminary that sort of makes my heart stop.
I am a linear thinker and I like check lists. (See above paragraph.) As hard as I have looked, I can’t find a check list for this “learning pastoral duties” thing that I am supposed to start doing. It seems fairly ambiguous and open. How will I know if I am doing these “pastoral duties”? I have always said myself that ministry is fluid and never M-F 9-5. Ambiguity is not completely a foreign theme in biblical ministry, as well. The song “Here I am, Lord” i,s of course, reminiscent of the 1 Samuel chapter 3 story of Samuel and Eli. Samuel didn’t even know at first who was calling him! In reading this story this afternoon, I am reassured, that while I may feel lost or unsure if I am “checking off my list” of pastoral duties that God has called me and each of us to where we are for God’s work in the world. God tells Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.” Now, granted, God was talking about punishing the prophet Eli’s house, and I, naturally, hope that punishment is not what God has in mind for whatever ministry I partake in, but while Samuel was unsure of his role and place or “duties” if you will, God was and is sure! This is the certainty that I, and all of us, must cling to in our times of “here I am, Lord, now what?”