What does it mean, to me, to be a Deacon today?

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Three years ago, I said “yes” to God, and the church said “yes” to me in affirming my call toward Word and Service ministry. Three years ago today, I was formally consecrated as a minister of Word and Service, a Deacon in our church. Set apart for formal ministry. And now, three years later in the eyes of a church, I am seen as ordained to this office.

deacon and pastor together
To be in ministry is a gift and responsibility, one I do not take for granted. And to be able to serve as a deacon, while my wife also serves as a pastor is another gift and joy. (This was us together on Reformation Sunday a couple weeks ago.)

Three years into following this call to ministry, and I am even more grateful than I was when I started. Each day, I am entrusted with stories of God’s work in the world happening in congregations across the Nebraska Synod. Each day, I am invited into sharing all that God is up to, and seeing how we’re all a part of God’s work in the world. Each day, I have the opportunity to say thank you on behalf of siblings in Christ all around the world. Each day, I get to get out of bed in the morning and know that I have a meaningful call doing something I love- helping others grow and do what they do, their ministry, better. As we serve and do some of God’s work as Christ’s church, together. 

What does it mean to me to be a Deacon today? That I have a unique call and office that is a privilege and a gift. I have been entrusted with it, thanks to the mentorship and gifts and leadership of so many others in ministry and who helped form and shape me (and continue to do so). I have been entrusted with it too, especially, because God is at work and only God loose in the world in the Holy Spirit, could have seen what might have been ahead in following this call to a state which I had only ever really passed through and passed over before. But here I am. Three and a half years later, grateful more and more every day. Thankful always. And overjoyed to be able to walk alongside so many others faithfully growing and living as the stewards and disciples that God has called and created them to be.

road show
Some times in ministry and life you need to stop and smell the roses. Kind of like my dear friend and colleague Lisa is doing in this picture, as Diane, Bishop Brian, and myself all took a selfie in Taylor, Nebraska on our way to the Road Show in the Panhandle last month. These friends and colleagues are amazing, and I am so blessed to serve on the Nebraska Synod staff with such wonderful people, servants, ministers, and friends. (And really family at this point.)

What does it mean to me to be a Deacon today? That in this position and call, I have the privilege and responsibility to connect the life of the congregation and the church with the needs of the world. To be a prophetic voice calling my neighbors and siblings in Christ to see what God is up to, and what our neighbors might need and are saying. And to work for justice and peace in all the earth. Sometimes I wonder if I am being as prophetic as I feel I am called to be. Truthfully, there are days that I don’t think I am. So in the year ahead, with the help of my friends, colleagues, family, spiritual director and Bishop, I want to explore this more, so that I can more fully lean into this part of my call that the church has affirmed me in, equipped me for, and entrusted me with.

I am not sure where the year ahead might lead. Vocationally, I know it will involve continuing to grow as a father and spouse. It will mark ten years of my marriage journey with my partner in love, life, parenthood, and ministry, Allison. It will likely include continuing to grow into a new chapter as a son, as I am grateful that my parents have followed the call of being grandparents to be closer to their granddaughter, and thus be closer to Allison and me. And it will surely include continuing to grow and serve on the synod staff in Nebraska as long as Bishop Maas sees fit.

region 4 deacon
The deacons who were able to participate in the ELCA Region 4 Deacon Gathering last week in Texas. Thank you dear friends and colleagues for sharing so much, for inspiring, and for doing all the ministry that you do.

But I am not sure what it might lead to as I lean more heavily into my office as a deacon. I am feeling challenged, mostly in a good way, after participating last week in a gathering with deacons from all across Region 4 of the ELCA, meaning deacons from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. It was a wonderful time with colleagues of learning, sharing, growing together. I am also feeling challenged after attending the Lutheran Disaster Response gathering in New Orleans focused on disaster mitigation, strategy, and the challenges of being proactive as a church in responding to the disasters and frequency of challenges increasing amid climate change.

Perhaps part of the year ahead, despite the political and social pressures that might exist, will be to speak prophetically to the reality of climate change? I have seen first hand the impacts of it. And at the gathering last month, I heard first hand from people with stories of how they themselves are climate change refugees forced from their homes and towns because of rising waters. Though there are some in power in this country who currently deny its reality, the majority of the world knows it to be true. And when it comes to being a deacon, part of my call is to be prophetic and point to things, even if they are hard and we might want to ignore them.

When it comes to stewardship, part of stewardship is caring for creation. So maybe, this is a path forward in the midst of a synod and region that continues to respond to the needs of our neighbors after a year full of floods and terrible blizzards last winter. I wish I believed that this year will be better. But deep down, I suspect it probably won’t. At least, I do know we will be more prepared to respond this time around, and I am grateful that in my role on synod staff I am now also stepping into serving as part of the synod’s disaster response team.

parent
One thing is for sure, to be this little one’s dad is also a gift, joy, and deeply meaningful vocation. Yes, Caroline was dressed as Russel Wilson for Halloween, and it was awesome!

Who knows what the year ahead will bring. But what I do know is this, I am called to this ministry. It’s a beautiful ministry I am grateful for. It’s part of God’s work, but most importantly, it points to God’s work and responds to it. And remembering this, knowing that God is with me in it, calling me to it, and walking alongside me and leading me, gives me the hope to take the steps forward on the hard days.

To do the hard stuff like showing up and proclaiming about Christ crucified and resurrected on days where it’s hard to read the news or see the pain on my neighbors’ faces.

And to do all of this, because I do not do this alone. But with all of my sisters and brothers, in formal ministry as deacons and pastors (and parish ministry associates here in Nebraska), and all those not in formal ministry, but living their lives as stewards and disciples. I deeply believe that together, as God is with us in it, God’s work is done.

And to be able to share that, and help others see their gifts and how God is using them and might be calling them to be used is a life not just worth living, but a call that is deeply meaningful, every day. I only hope that all of you have daily work that you can find just as much meaning in, as I can.

What does it mean to me to be a deacon today? Well, I guess that’s what it means. I wonder what it might mean tomorrow. We’ll see. But for today, I am humbled and grateful. Thank you God for being you, and for making me, and calling and using me in such a way as this. Continue to open me up, guide me, and use me as you see fit. And thank you for being with me, for me, and loving me, and helping me share that love with others. Amen.

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