Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Called, Anointed and Sent

I’ve just come away from a beautiful weekend—the last one of April. National poetry month is a mere memory. May is Mental Health Month and includes Mothers’ Day to look forward to. Last week we attended our daughter Laura’s Baccalaureate Worship Service on Friday evening and Commencement at Eastern Mennonite Seminary on Saturday. Once again I was caught up in celebrating another significant family milestone.

The scriptures say Jesus’ mother Mary “pondered all of these things in her heart.” I can identify with that sentiment—the wonder of the annunciation and giving birth, the way the Spirit moves in our lives with events that keep unfolding. It leaves us in awe, with a sense of both mystery and delight. There's no way to describe it. I too have had many things to ponder over the years. Eventually you don’t want to keep quiet about them.

Years ago we adopted our first child, Jeremy and hoped for more children. But the progress was slow and discouraging for both adoption and conceiving a second child. At times I felt almost desperate. It became an overwhelming spiritual struggle, even an obsession. And I begged God for a miracle. I recall a night when I felt restless and sleepless as I leaned on the windowsill praying for this child who was only a figment of my imagination. I gazed up into the winter sky where a single bright celestial body—perhaps Venus, named for the goddess of love--shone down on me. As I watched, it transformed from a “wishing star” to a “promise star.”

An older woman at church told me it is never “out of God’s will” to pray to have a child and so I continued to pray. I also gathered up the biblical stories of barren women—Hannah, the mother of Samuel and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. I claimed them as my own story. I noted the way these mothers dedicated their children to God even before they were born. I would follow their example. In the margin of my oldest Bible I noted the date—March 6, 1977 next to Ps. 113:9. “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” Four years later, Laura was born on Valentine’s Day. God was saying—“This is all about love—I’ve given you your heart’s desire.”

Soon after our grown-up daughter enrolled in seminary three years ago, I suddenly realized how our experience mirrored that of my biblical heroines. During Laura's internship at Lindale Mennonite Church in her second year of seminary training, we made it a point to hear her sermons. Her mentor there was Duane Yoder, who had previously been my parents' pastor in Florida. Laura's second sermon was based on an assigned text from the lectionary: the call of Samuel! I sat near the front of the beautiful new sanctuary at Lindale and marveled at God’s faithfulness and unfailing love. (Not to mention the Almighty’s good humor and fondness for beautiful surprises).

Graduation events this past weekend brought more confirmation of God’s goodness and grace. The class theme for the 2006 graduating class of Eastern Mennonite Seminary was “Anointed and Sent to Bring Good News” from Isaiah 61:1-6a, NRSV (my favorite version!) Laura, whose last name since marriage to Brandon, is Laura Amstutz, was at the head of her class—the first to walk forward for a ceremonial anointing by a faculty member during baccalaureate—the first in line to receive her diploma the following day.

Most of the thirty-three members of Laura’s graduating class have not been called to pastor a church. Many of them are considering forms of ministry beyond traditional definitions. Some are waiting for unknown destinations to be revealed. For now, Laura took a job at the seminary as a communication coordinator. It’s a good fit, given her undergraduate degree. It will launch this new phase of her life as an employed adult.

Laura told us she knows she will be in ministry no matter what job she accepts, no matter where she lives or what assignments come her way. As for me, I have no trouble imagining her as the pastor of a church one day. I can’t forget the strange feeling of sitting in a pew listening to her. I was caught up in her message as if she were someone else—no longer the little girl I dressed in a pink frilly bonnet and pushed down the street in a stroller. She’s been called, anointed and sent--to bring Good News. I knew it from the beginning. Listening that day confirmed it.

She’s called to difficult and joyful work. It is a ministry we all share--bringing good news to the poor and oppressed; binding up the brokenhearted; announcing liberty to the captives; comforting mourners, repairing ruined cities, and raising up former devastations. One thing I know--she’s a natural at dispensing the “oil of gladness.” That was part of her job description right from the beginning. You go girl!


At 8:43 AM, Blogger Laura said...

You made me cry! I love you!


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