As I was driving through northwest Indiana the other day, a familiar song came onto the radio. The song was “Beginnings” by the multi-dimensional band Chicago. While the song is actually a love song, I felt the general theme is appropriate to where I (or we) have been, currently are, and will be in ministry. Seven years ago - through the grace of God – I accepted a calling into ministry. After discussing the calling with my wife Kathy, I entered seminary with the specific idea to eventually serve a church as an ordained pastor someday. That was a “Beginning,” but not the only one.
The truth is that God allows each of us to have many “Beginnings.” When do we really stop experiencing beginnings? In our lives, are these beginnings meant for us to experience change and growth? Perhaps the better question is, do these beginnings serve as a bridge to what God truly calls us to do?” I believe the answer is YES to all of these questions. Next Sunday, July 25 at 2:00 pm (CDT) at First Presbyterian Church of Valparaiso, yours truly has the privilege of being ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament. Yes, my ordination marks a milestone in my ministry journey, but it also marks another “Beginning.” The blessing of becoming ordained affords me the opportunity to serve God and connect others with Jesus Christ in special ways with the greater faith community. God has opened many doors for me in my lifetime and this is no different as I have been called to serve two wonderful churches as covenant pastor – Bethel Presbyterian Church in Union Mills and First Presbyterian Church of Portage.
Focusing on the here and now, it’s easy to remember the excitement of a new beginning such as an ordination and becoming pastor of two outstanding churches. But which beginnings led to this great blessing? I know the first beginning was when my late parents, Bill and Lois, responded to the grace of God and made the decision to become active members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio and raise their three children in a Christian environment. Other beginnings occurred when I attended Sunday school, was confirmed and began participating in youth group activities, including joining Young Life, a faith-based organization. Amazing beginnings happened when I went to college, got married, had a family, started my first professional job, and changed jobs – twice. The amazing beginnings continued when I became a grandfather, entered/graduated seminary, and now have the blessing of being ordained.
And under our Lord’s guiding hand, I lived a special “Beginning” when I first attended and joined First Presbyterian Church of Valparaiso 18 years ago. Nurtured by hundreds of friendships from sisters and brothers in Christ, including compassionate pastors, I grew from an un-watered seed to a person who seeks to share Christ-like values with everyone God has put into my life. New “Beginnings” are happening all the time. Doors keep opening for all of us.
When you look at your life, when and where did your faith journey begin? Those of us who are middle-aged and more have had many “Beginnings.” Please take a moment to remember those beginnings and be aware that you will have more. For all of you young people, remember each “Beginning” is likely a bridge to a greater calling that God has for you.
In Genesis, the very first words in the Bible state, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But God didn’t stop there. God added more beginnings and added water, light, sky, land, vegetation, stars, sea creatures, birds, livestock, and eventually humanity made in God’s image. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are all blessed with the eternal gift of new “Beginnings.”
Personally, with tremendous emotion, I would like to take this opportunity to thank First Presbyterian Church of Valparaiso for this next “Beginning” in my life. Through personal, spiritual and other resources, FPC Valpo has helped nurture my faith in God, walked with me as I evolved, fostered my growth as a leader, and has always provided everything I have needed to enter into this new “Beginning” in pastoral ministry. This journey could not have been possible without the love, compassion, and support of FPC Valpo!
I have always believed that ministry is to be shared in community with one another. Through the grace of God and responding to God’s grace, we can all walk across the bridge to new beginnings together as one!
Your brother in Christ,