By: Christa Meland
The context of ministry has changed significantly over the past year: The United Methodist Church is on the precipice of some type of division, we’re still figuring out what ministry will look like post-pandemic, we have been made painfully aware of our need to engage in the work of racial reckoning, and our political system is as fragile as ever.
“Here’s a bit of good news,” Bishop David Bard told both in-person and virtual attendees at a Service of Ordination and Commissioning on Tuesday evening. “We are not the first disciples of Jesus Christ to be daunted.”
Drawing from Mark 6: 30-44, he reminded Minnesota United Methodists of the story of Jesus taking five loaves of bread and two fish and feeding the 5,000.
“This isn't just a story about daunted disciples, but also about a Jesus who makes a way forward,” said Bard. “In this story, there are cues for our ministry as a church and for your ministry as set-aside people in The United Methodist Church.”
At the Service of Ordination and Commissioning, Rev. Amanda Lunemann was ordained as an elder, Rev. Shawna Horn’s ordination was recognized and she was received as an elder in The United Methodist Church, Revs. Hyun Ah (Hannah) Choi and Jin Ho Hur were commissioned as provisional elders, and Rev. David Drager was recognized for completing course of study. (View photos from service.)
This worship service typically takes place in-person with hundreds of people present to give thanks for the honorees and bear witness to their ministry milestones. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a different type of Annual Conference again this year: While honorees and a small number of their guests participated in-person at The Grove in Woodbury, hundreds more watched the service live online.
Bard told the clergy being recognized that the way forward in this daunting time requires listening deeply to the needs of the world and to our call to ministry in Jesus Christ, invites a deep attentiveness to the needs of the world and our call to respond, and necessitates being present. We also need poetic skills as clergy, creativity and adeptness with words. When people are flooded with words meant to confuse or disorient, our words—formed out of our own deep Spirit conversations with one who is the Word made flesh—may help people frame their deepest questions and pose questions that take them deeper into God’s grace.
The story of Jesus feeding the multitude is a story about meeting tangible human needs and the need for meaning and joy—the human needs for poetry and bread, he explained. In ministry for Jesus Christ, offer what you can. Offer what you have.
“Magic happens when we are present in the situation, when we offer our best and offer what we have, when we are present to the Jesus who is always present with us—not magic exactly, but miracle, not trick but transformation,” said Bard. “And at the end of the day, friends, our calling really is to be miracle workers, not in the sense that we can solve every dilemma, not in the sense of being superheroes, but in the sense that we can be purveyors of grace, stewards of the mysteries of God, doers of justice, singers of joy.”
All of those being honored publicly affirmed that they have been called by God; vowed to remain faithful in prayer and the study of holy scriptures, follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and lead people to faith in Jesus Christ; and promised to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people.
Then, one by one, the honorees were prayed over by Bishop Bard and clergy sponsors they had chosen, and they were sent forth to lead God’s people.
Bishop Bard closed his sermon with: “Are you willing? Are you willing in this daunting season? Are you willing to give yourself to Jesus? Are you willing to be people of poetry and bread and magic? Are you willing to listen deeply, speak thoughtfully, ask penetrating questions, stay connected with people and with Jesus? We cannot do everything. We can only accomplish one bit of God’s magnificent project, one bit of God’s dream for the world. Yet in offering ourselves to Jesus, and in offering the bread and poetry we can offer, magic can happen. And we will do our part...magnificently and beautifully. We will join with this Jesus who somehow makes a way in the most daunting of circumstances. Lord, we are able. Tonight you are saying 'yes' to this call of God in this daunting time...May it be so by the grace of God and the power of God’s Spirit.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church