The Ordination of Diana Linden-Johnson
Saturday, 21 May 2016
In the sweet Name of Jesus. Amen.
If I could have gotten by with it, Diana, we would be singing this morning a song written by Paul McCartney, sung by the Beatles. On this day of your ordination so long awaited, it would be a perfect hymn directed to God:
The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear.
I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here,
Leads me to your door.
Diana, I, from the first time we met – over 15 years ago (!) – I was convinced that you were genuinely being called to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament; like Jeremiah in our first reading, you have, I believe, been called to speak the Word in Law and Gospel and administer the Holy Sacraments from the time you were in your mother’s womb. But the way has not been easy. More from the Beatles – for too many years –
The wild and windy night that the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears crying for the day.
Why leave me standing here, let me know the way.
Many times I’ve been alone and many times I’ve cried
Anyway you’ll never know the many ways I’ve tried
And still they lead me back to the long and winding road.
You left me standing here a long, long time ago.
Don’t leave me waiting here, lead me to your door.
Don’t’ leave me waiting here, lead me to your door.
And today that hymn will be fulfilled.
I hope you don’t mind my being self-referential here – but you know well what my seven-and-a-half years on the ELCA’s Human Sexuality Studies Task Force cost me in blood, sweat, and tears. You followed our work anxiously, and you supported me immensely during those grueling times. And now, for me, every second of those terribly difficult years is this morning fully redeemed – they have led you at long last to this door. My only regret is that it took us, the church, so damn long to get you here. And for that I apologize.
So now this morning, at long, long last you will be ordained – you will receive the church’s orders to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance gentleness – to fight the good fight of the faith; you will be ordered to feed the church of God, eagerly to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, and to be an example to the flock. You will be ordered to be a servant of Christ and to be a steward of God’s holy mysteries. You will be ordered to care for God’s people – to bear their burdens. These are words that bind you in a way that they do not bind those who are not ordered to the office of Word and Sacraments. And these are difficult orders to fulfill.
But too you will also be ordered to receive comfort as you serve within the Church. Take that order very seriously. And let us all who are here take orders as well to be there for you to comfort you in your times of need. Just as important, today also take seriously the special promises given to you in the laying on of hands: the Holy Spirit will be with you in a special way, guiding and preserving you as you continue on that long and winding road that leads to God’s door. God promises to give you the strength to persevere in the mission to which you have been ordered, and God will fulfill that promise. You do not need to try to summon up strength from inside yourself; God’s promise to you is as certain as the scars on God’s body that betoken God’s love for you.
Diana – you have been on a long and winding road. It will not, however, have been in vain. At the altar, at the Font, and in the pulpit, in forgiving sin and speaking God’s word of comfort in many and various ways, you will stand in the stead of Christ – to minister to the people of God. You bring to that all that you have been through on that long and winding road that has led you to this morning. Because of your times of grief, broken-heartedness, fears, loneliness, and anger the better you will be at ministering to those in your charge; the better you will be at walking with the downcast on their own long and winding roads; the better you’ll be with those who many times have been alone and many times have cried their way through the various forms of death we all experience on our own, uniquely winding roads. Embrace what you have learned through the wild and windy nights that left you in a pool of tears, crying for this day. Though I personally cannot believe any of that was God’s will, I do believe that what you have been through is being redeemed by God and that your times of trial will make you a better pastor, priest, and preacher than had you not suffered so. You come now to this day with greater gifts than others who have not traveled the long and winding road that leads to your receiving of Holy Orders this day.
Diana – there is so much more I would like to say to you this day – but time is short, this liturgy is long, and our air- conditioning isn’t working – but let me give you one more charge, one more order not in the ordination liturgy, but apt nonetheless – this from Madeleine L’Engle: “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
Diana: you radiate that light that is so lovely. In you dwells well the presence of the God who is three-in-one and one-in-three. And now as you at long last stand at the door of Ordination, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may that light so lovely continue to shine through you all the days of the ministry to which you are ordered this day. Grace be with you Diana, and with all of you here who are, by the grace of God, indeed being continually renewed in your undying love for and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
In His sweet Name.