"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, so that you may bear fruit - fruit that will last."
This weekend, amongst family and friends, God and the church chose to ordain me for ministry. This was an incredible experience, one for which I am thankful and one I will not forget.
Part of the imprint in my memory is the charge that forgiveness or retention of sins goes hand in hand with the pastoral office. That's a sobering reality, one for which I feel woefully inadequate. It is simultaneously an honor and incredibly overwhelming to receive this commission from God.
Yet, the words of John's Gospel carried through the service. Jesus spoke these words to his disciples the night of his execution at the hands of the Roman empire. Facing the Cross, Jesus reminded the disciples, those who he first gave the apostolic and prophetic ministry of pastoring, that we did not choose Him. Rather, Jesus chooses us.
Of course, this seems entirely absurd. The beginning of Luther's sacristy prayer sums up my feelings about this: "Lord God, you have appointed me as a pastor in your church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago." Why would Christ choose anyone, especially me, to shepherd his church?
I'm not certain, though I am certain that God has chosen us in order to bear fruit in the world. Daily, I know, I am in need of God's help. Scripture and prayer, through people and through all creation, God is at work and inviting me and all other pastors - indeed, all other Christians - to come alongside that work.
We are called to bear fruit, to nourish the world. The pastoral office is one of Word and Sacrament, to help proclaim God's good news, to help nourish with world with God's Body and Blood, and to help renew the world through water and the Holy Spirit.
I'm excited, and terrified, and so thankful for all of you who helped not only to celebrate, but to encourage me in this difficult calling. And so, on my lips today is the end of Luther's prayer: "Use me as Your instrument, but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all."
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.