At my seminary graduation I felt like an all-star. As I looked back at the growth I experienced thinking of my first seminary class being called out for not doing the reading, to graduating with honors, I gave thanks to God for the process. Having just returned from moving almost all my belonging to Cincinnati, Ohio, I arrived in Philadelphia to receive my diploma expecting fully to be called to serve a congregation within a matter of weeks.
Throughout the four years of seminary, it was made clear that the process ahead was graduate, interview, and begin ministry. The problem was I already interviewed at one congregation that shared that they did not feel I was called to be their pastor. While in hindsight I would agree, that is hard to hear after so many classes, hours of prayer, and moments discerning where exactly God are you calling me?
After graduation I moved to Cincinnati, flew with Randi to Montana for our wedding, spent our honeymoon hiking the Canadian Rockies, and returned to Cincinnati to begin five years of waiting for a call to serve the church. These years of waiting would bring me to Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, California, Oregon, Washington and back to Montana. In this waiting I feared a tornado would touch down in front of me in Illinois, I ate cheese curds at Lambeau Field, and I ate $1 scoops at the Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory.
As I waited, I sat with widows, pastors, former bishops, and leaders in this church & world to pray, discern, and help them make an impact on the future of the church. All the while I kept listening to where God was calling me to make a difference, even if it was not yet as a pastor. Here is the thing though, while I thought I was waiting for God, God was present in the waiting.
Advent begins on December 3rd this year, kicking off the church year with the 22-day season. The season of Advent is rooted in waiting. Waiting for Christmas Day. Waiting for friends to open gifts. Waiting for travel to see family. It takes patience to wait, especially since our culture if full of instant gratification. Already we are hearing Mariah Carey take over the radio airwaves, seeing reindeer inflatables in front of every other house, and black Friday deals beginning November 1st. Yet, as followers of Jesus we are called to stay focused on Christ who is in the waiting and on the journey.
On my journey this is where I continue to find Jesus, in the waiting, in the anticipation, in what sometimes felt like failure. Over the five years of waiting to be your pastor after graduating from Seminary I was blessed to find Jesus in my development work, in my building real relationships, and in my service to the whole church by making it possible for seminarians to follow their call. I earned certificates in fundraising, attended conferences, and learned a whole lot about what to do and what not to do. I able to live into the journey of waiting both fully present and aware of God because while I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting, I was not waiting alone.
So, this is my challenge is my challenge for you as a Child of God and us as a faith community: that this Advent we be fully present in the waiting and fully aware of God in the silence. As we write your Christmas cards and put baby Jesus stamps on the envelope, may we give thanks to our community for being there in the ordinary, the mondain, and the valleys of life. Before we hang the lights on your tree (unless you already did like me), may we take the time to make an Advent wreath for the table to light one week at a time. Then, in the dark of night as we sing together on Christmas Eve, may we together light our candles and at once proclaim Christ is born!
In the hope, love, peace, and joy of Christ,