The centerpiece of this meeting was an “Ecclesiastical Council,” in which we all had the opportunity to examine Rev. Hollis Dodge, to determine whether we should grant him “privilege of call”- full ministerial “standing” as a United Church of Christ minister. The question itself was a ‘no-brainer’: Rev. Dodge is known far and wide as an exemplary pastor whose heart and mind have been totally devoted to God’s work for many, many years already: there was never any doubt that we would affirm him to the change of status he requested.
No, the challenge of yesterday’s program was to communicate to the folks attending the meeting some of the issues involved in vetting and holding accountable people who feel called to ordained ministry. Our Association’s Church and Ministry Commission oversees this work throughout the year, on behalf of all of our churches. (They put me through it, for you!) Ordination and licensing of ministers is a task we take very seriously. And when, like yesterday, someone gets all the way to the final stage of the process, all of the churches of the Association get to have their ‘say,’ whether to grant “ordained minister” status.
In the end, we affirmed Rev. Dodge unanimously.
Also at yesterday’s meeting, we put forward a slate of officers to serve our Association for the coming year. We went into the meeting with two offices that had no nominee— but two folks in the meeting accepted the call to serve in those “slots,” and all of those in attendance voted to approve the entire slate of nominees for their jobs. At the close of the meeting, our Conference Minister, Rev. John Deckenback, led us in prayer and laying-on of hands, gathering all of our Association officers. We felt the spiritual investment of all of our churches laid upon folks whom God calls to serve the church.
Roles and titles and offices can be an honor.
They can mean a lot of work, too, for those who accept their jobs seriously and strive to fulfill the duties that come with them.
In the Christian faith, many of us struggle to imitate Jesus, who carried out his heavenly mission with the humility of a slave.
In our gospel lesson this week, Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet, but then, only moments later, he noted Judas Iscariot going out to betray him to the authorities who wanted to kill him. Strangely, according to John’s gospel, Jesus chose that moment to state: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” (John 13:31)
Glory?? He’s about to be betrayed and killed, and he calls it “glory” ??
I have a weird custom, each year around Holy Week, of listening again to the rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I find that it challenges me emotionally, to feel the passions and motivations of the characters in the story in a fresh way. Thinking of John 13:31, I hear this:
For the opera, lyricist Tim Rice imagined Jesus’ disciple Simon the Zealot, on Palm Sunday, experiencing the excitement of the palm-waving crowds and urging Jesus to seize this moment to try to become king of Israel:
There must be over fifty thousand
Screaming love and more for you:
Every one of fifty thousand
Would do whatever you ask him to.
Keep them yelling their devotion,
But add a touch of hate at Rome--
You will arise to a greater power !
We will win ourselves a home !
You'll get the power and the glory
For ever and ever and ever !
But Jesus challenges Simon’s notion of “glory” :
Neither you, Simon, nor the fifty thousand,
Nor the Romans, nor the Jews,
Nor Judas, nor the twelve,
Nor the priests, nor the scribes,
Nor doomed Jerusalem itself
Understand what power is,
Understand what glory is,
Understand at all, understand at all….
What is glory ? Let’s seek the mind of Christ about this.
What was he thinking ?
… praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
His glory is above earth and heaven. (Ps. 148:13)