Friday, November 12, 2010

Statement of Faith, Motivation, and Service

This is a statement I wrote and submitted to my presbytery as part of the ordination process.

When I was twelve years old, I read G.K. Chesterton’s account of how, after Thomas Aquinas had written an important treatise on transubstantiation, the crucified Christ appeared to him in a vision, saying, “You have spoken well of my body; what would you have as a reward?” And with the innocent audacity of a genuine saint, Thomas replied, “I would have thyself!” And thereupon he was blessed with the beatific vision, after which he said all his voluminous works seemed to him like straw.

And so for years, in spite of my Presbyterian upbringing, I believed in the doctrine of transubstantiation. I don’t anymore. But I still identify myself with Aquinas--the mystic theologian. My desire is to see God. And like Aquinas, I strive with intellectual ardor to know God more fully.

Even as a small child, I knew the joy of being in God’s presence; I am blessed to have had a deep faith from as far back as I can remember. But I first started to feel a call to ministry around age 14. In retrospect, that’s interesting, considering it was also around age 14 that my life became hellish. Though suffering severe stress for three years, I never sought relief in external things--drugs, alcohol, etc.--rather, I turned inward, searching out the blackest reaches of the soul, daring anguished inquiry into the darkest of life’s questions. And there in the dark night, Love found me.

I put off starting the Inquiry process for a long time--years, in fact. I think partly it’s because, even though I have been quite sure of my calling to ministry for a long time, I still felt unready. Years of internal struggle have made me acutely aware of my weaknesses and limitations--but they have also forced me to discover where genuine strength and help can be found.
Being about halfway through my CPE unit at Children’s Hospital, I have been amazed at how easy it has been. And I think that’s because I’ve been through some difficult times, and have already had frequent occasions to reflect theologically on questions of suffering, and of who I am, what I believe, and how that informs my work and relationships. My time at Children’s Hospital has demonstrated to me how my suffering is a gift for ministry, and how surprisingly well it has prepared me for entering a pastoral role.

I have also had the opportunity this fall to begin an internship working with various ministries at Immanuel Pres., including their Healing Center, Young Adult Group, and work with One L.A. (a community organizing group). My internship at Immanuel is stretching me in an area I had been worried about not being gifted in before, namely the more practical, mundane, yet nebulously defined area of planning and developing events and coordinating programs. As more of an abstract, big picture thinker, I’m more comfortable in the roles of preacher, teacher, counselor, not so much administrator. So I’m really glad to be getting experience in that area.

I continue to be amazed by the faithfulness of God in preparing me for the pastorate. Looking back over my life, I can see the hand of God forming my heart for compassionate service, my mind for theological perspicacity, my soul for reliance upon grace, and my will for seeking the righteous rule of God. I am eager to continue to serve my Lord Jesus Christ in whatever way God wills, and particularly as I continue to prepare for ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

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