We have the routine down, but there is nothing routine about what we are doing. On Sunday we will ordain and/or install into church office a group of fellow LPC members. Some will become elders, others deacons, and still others trustees. Elders and deacons are ecclesial or church officers, and trustees are corporate officers. They are our leaders.
The routine of the process is pretty well known. In the fall our Nominating Committee begins to seek persons to fill upcoming vacancies or our three boards – typically four elders and trustees and five deacons. This year there were some unexpired terms, so they were seeking five elders and seven deacons.
By January the Nominating Committee has prepared a slate of officer nominees, all the vacancies ready to be filled. At our congregational meeting in February we elect them all in an election whose outcome seems as predictable as the outcome of a North Korean election.
We have the routine down, but there is nothing routine about what we are doing. Beneath the calm surface of a routine process, God is at work; his Holy Spirit blowing where it will, slamming shut doors that everyone thought would be open, prying open doors that had been long thought to be forever barred. Some people sense God’s call immediately – “Yes! I would be honored.” Others take weeks, even months, to come to a decision – “I never thought I’d say yes, but I think God is calling.” Others clearly and kindly say, “Not now,” and you know that God has given them their “not now.”
Tomorrow morning into the early afternoon, our church officers will meet together in a retreat at the Anchor Presbyterian Church in Wrightstown. We do this every year and it is always time well spent.
One of the items on the retreat agenda is a review of the questions of ordination and installation that the new officers will be asked to affirm publicly on Sunday. They will be asked to affirm their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They will affirm the authority of Scripture.
One of the questions asks if they will receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith, and so we will spend some time reviewing the glorious gift that is ours in our Reformed faith.
They will be asked to affirm their willingness to serve the people with “energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.” We tell them they might want to answer, “I will with God’s help.”
The questions we ask our new officers are important. We don’t take them likely, and you should know that every officer has considered each question before he or she answers it.
There’s another set of questions we will ask on Sunday morning, but our new officers will not answer them. You will.
Here are the questions our church constitution says we must ask ourselves on Sunday. This is prescribed as our promise to the new elders and deacons. We ask a different, but not dissimilar question to be answered as we install new trustees. The questions:
- Do we, the members of the church, accept the brothers and sisters in Christ as elders or deacons, chosen by God through the voice of this congregation to lead us in the way of Jesus Christ?
- Do we agree to encourage them, to respect their decisions, and to follow as they guide us, serving Jesus Christ, who alone is Head of the Church?
God calls, and, wonderfully, we Presbyterians believe that the Holy Spirit uses our voices in that, blowing, slamming doors and prying them open process beneath the calm of the routine we have down.
One of the gifts the Reformers, Luther and Calvin and others, gave to the church was a reminder that God calls. All the time and to all believers, God calls. Not just to church office, but yes to church office. And to careers and service and mission and ministry. In what is called the sanctification of the ordinary life, Luther famously includes “the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker” among those who are called to serve God in the daily-ness of their lives.
We don’t choose a career and insist that God blesses it as a call, but when we hear and respond to God’s call to be an accountant or a physician, a teacher or a mechanic, we are indeed blessed. Vocation, we call it.
Our new officers have heard God’s call to serve our church for the next season of their lives. They have responded to God as they heard him through the voice of our congregation. I think they will be blessed.
Because we believe God has been at work through and beneath the routine we have down – the Spirit blowing and slamming doors shut and prying others open – we are bold to make our promise, eyes wide open, hearts prepared for God to work: “We agree to encourage them, to respect their decisions, and to follow as they guide us, serving Jesus Christ, who alone is Head of the Church.”
Pretty amazing stuff we’ll be doing on Sunday.
See you Sunday