Saturday, September 10, 2011

What I'm Doing on 9/11

Having a party.  This year is my 25th anniversary of my ordination.  The actually date is July 6, 1986.  September 11 is the earliest my bishop had free.  And I wanted the bishop so September 11 it was.    After what I've been through this year I'm just so damned grateful I'm still a pastor.  

 This is what I wrote in my pastor's letter in this month's newsletter:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
          I am so looking forward to the celebration on September 11 of my anniversary of ordination.

I hope this doesn’t seem egotistical because what I am looking forward to is not a celebration of ME but a celebration of the church, the ministry of the whole church and how grateful and happy I am to be a part of it.
          I really wanted our Synod Bishop Steven Ullestad to preach.  Not because he’s so wonderful (although I actually think he is) but to include the wider church in this celebration, to emphasize this is about what a gift the church is to us.  It just so happened that he was not available to come until September 11.  I understand the tragedy of  September 11, 2001 is imbedded profoundly in this nation’s memory, especially this being the 10th anniversary.  It gave me pause to wonder it was inappropriate to have a celebration on this day.
I know something about grief.    I  know that even in grief , celebration is essential.  Even in grief, you must be open to finding joy or you will sink in despair.   The last 25 years have not been a cake walk.  I served in some very difficult situations.  I have stood and prayed over the graves of babies, children and teenagers.  I have seen people in the church do truly evil things in the name of “being Christian”
But I have seen people rise above the evil and pettiness and selfishness that surround us and shine with the love of Christ so brightly that it hurts my eyes just to think of it.  I have been forgiven and I have forgiven.  I have been upheld and sustained by the prayers and faith of the church when I was too sad, too tired, too overwhelmed to lean upon my own faith.
There will always be sorrow, tragedy, unkindness and hate, not only in the world but in the church until Our Lord returns.  Until then, we live with chaff.  And too often we ARE the chaff.  But there will always be love and there will always be forgiveness and there always be grace.  And until the Lord returns and it is no longer needed, we will always have the Church.  And that is what I hope you will come and celebrate with me on Sunday, September 11.
“And be of good courage, for God has called you,
and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”


  1. I wish I could be there with you! It is our Rally Day tomorrow, so I am here. We are having our usual kick off, even though it's 9/11, but will of course be preaching and praying with these events in our minds and prayers.

    I like what you say here.

    I hope it's a great celebration.

  2. Congratulations Joelle. I've been celebrating my 25th this year too. The actual anniversary is Pearl Harbor day. For both of us perhaps, good to remember that God continues to work good even through times of tragedy and loss. Enjoy the day and the rich remembrance of all -- the great and the awful -- that's woven into the Big Story through love and grace.

  3. Blessings to you on this monumental day....25 years is a remarkable length of time to serve, love, bless, preach, bury, marry, celebrate sacraments, pray, cry, mourn, stand as a calm presence..............I hope you have some really cute...shiny red high heels to wear today.

  4. Blessings and congratulations. Good letter, and thanks for sharing it.

  5. Lovely sermon, yes, life is the highs and lows, and often at the same time. Sometimes the struggle is to accept that.