17 years ago I told you I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was 15 years old. It was the night your Dad died, and I was being tormented with a whirlwind of emotions. In the midst of my emotions, I picked up a notebook and decided to write. I didn’t know what I wanted to write, but I knew that something deep inside of me was telling me to write. I realized in that moment that I was a writer. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I told you that, I was expecting you to say, “Really, what do you want to be?” Instead you said simply, “You are going to be a minister.” I thought you were crazy.
Yet something within me never let go of that idea. On the night that Grandpa died, something was born in me. It was a spark that was probably there all along. It was a spark that only you recognized. It was a spark I figured would just fizzle out. I was wrong. Tonight I am going to be ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church.
I am going to kneel before you, the church, the Bishop and God and take vows to dedicate my life to the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. Tonight I will promise to teach the Bible to those seeking a deeper understanding. I will promise to preach good news to the poor, freedom for the captives, and forgiveness to sinners. I will promise to sit with a dying man as he takes his final breaths. I will promise to hold an infant above the baptismal waters. I will promise to break bread with sinners and share the cup of forgiveness. I am going to dedicate my life to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I will take a solemn vow and enter into a covenant relationship with the Church, the body of Christ – the only source of truth and salvation I have ever known. The Church is not perfect. It’s a good thing, because neither am I. I love the United Methodist Church. I know it has made mistakes, yet I love it anyway. I love it for so many reasons, but ultimately I love it because it was through the United Methodist Church that I discovered the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
And that is why I want to thank you. I want to thank you and Dad for bringing me to church as a kid. I want to thank you both for teaching me about the love of Jesus in word and deed. I want to thank you for valuing my education, and encouraging me to reach and dream and dance. I want to thank you for loving me, even when I forgot my homework, even when I forgot to pick up the apples in the yard, or when I forgot to give you a message. I want to thank you for loving me so much that you could see through all of my mistakes and imperfections. I want to thank you for loving me so much that you could see something about who I am, and who I could be.
When I kneel before the Bishop tonight, there will be so many people there with me. There will be people of five wonderful churches that embraced me, welcomed me, and molded me into a man, husband, father, and pastor. There will be teachers and coaches that pushed me. There will be friends that laughed with me. There will be all four of my grandparents, two aunts and an uncle. When I think of all that has led me to this point in time, I am humbled. I know that you will be there too.
I thank God every day. I thank God for giving me more blessings than I can possibly deserve. I thank God for family and friends. I thank God for life, life abundant, and life eternal. I thank God for the awesome privilege of doing God’s work and serving God’s children. And I thank God for you, and for that preposterous suggestion you made to me so long ago. It turns out you were right. Thank you.