On March 2nd, my long time mentor and friend and one of my idols- the Reverend Johnny Wray- preached my installation service at Community Christian Church. All 1600 words were carefully crafted and preached- but this is part of his message. Every time I re-read his sermon, I am reminded of the importance of mentors that have gone ahead of us and paved a way for us to follow.
Preached March 2, 2014 by the Reverend Johnny Wray
The word “install”… comes from an Old French word (estaler) – meaning to place, to set up, to position, to establish. And that is precisely what pastors are called to do — getting things in place and making the space for the Spirit of God to move and to work; and preparing, setting up, positioning the congregation to hear and to heed the words of Jesus.
For example, Sarah, I’m thinking of: the children in the congregation-and the responsibility you have, as their pastor, as the installer of faith in them. To nurture them in the love of God, to teach them the stories of Jesus and the ways of Jesus, to instill in them a deep appreciation for Holy Communion and all the traditions and practices of the church, to provide a safe place for them to share their stories, their joys and sorrows, to welcome them as a child of God. You are an installer of faith.
There are also folks here who draw every breath in pain – may be the physical pain of illness, of the parental pain of watching one’s child suffer, or the emotional pain of loss – the loss of a spouse, a child, a parent, any beloved… And as their pastor – you are called to install comfort – to hold the hand at the bedside, to wipe the tear at the graveside, to provide a shoulder, a listening ear, a caring heart. An installer of comfort.
There are also folks here who are afraid. We live in fearful times – the world can be a dangerous and dark place. People are afraid – some are afraid of death, some are afraid of life. Some are afraid of change, some afraid of anything different… and you are called to install hope.
You, Sarah, are also called to be an installer of compassion. When we are tempted – as we often are – to withdraw into ourselves, to look out for self first, to neglect, ignore the needs of the neighbor next door, across town, around the world — You are called to install in us, to help us live with the suffering of others — that will include the suffering of others right here in this congregation and in this community. It will also include the suffering of survivors of hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and tornadoes in the Midwest and those in our society who’ve fallen out, been left out, cast out. It will include the suffering of victims of civil war in Syria and South Sudan, of hunger in Zimbabwe, of earthquakes in Haiti, of poverty in Bangladesh. You are the reminder of one of the fundamental teachings of Jesus: we find life when we give it away in self-emptying, self-giving love. It is in learning to live with and share the suffering of others that we are able to realize a life of passion, peace and joy.
You are called Sunday after to Sunday to stand in this pulpit, open the scriptures, listen to the world around you, peer into the hearts of these people and install a fresh, relevant word from God; sometimes you’ll need to install justice – when the wrong seems oft so strong, when things must be set right; other times you’ll be called to make the space for a spirit of generosity or a spirit of hospitality; or make the space for a sense of wonder or a touch of humor. . .
But even more — neither is it you and the congregation alone. There can be no service of installation more necessary, more critical than your making that space within your own life and in the life of the congregation to be open to receive the gift of the Spirit.
So Sarah – with your gifts, with the gifts of this congregation, with the gifts of the Holy Spirit – there can be no doubt that the best days of this congregation still lie ahead. Amen.