At several points during the synod assembly each year, we have what are called ‘Dwelling In The Word Moments’. They are brief stories shared by different people about how scripture has touched their lives in some way or another. The purpose is to encourage one another to see the value of scripture and its priceless presence in our lives and, therefore, the need to live in the word of God. Last year I was invited to share one of these Dwelling In The Word Moments. I think I wrote three or four different ones before settling on what to actually say. Here is one I wrote for the Moment but ended up not using.
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It was a hot Summer afternoon in Columbia SC. As any of you who have been to Columbia, SC know, that is a bit redundant. A few years before beginning my studies at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, I was on the campus for a Career Crossroads retreat and I was seeking a respite from the inescapable heat and could find it only in the cool, quiet chapel. As I sat in the chapel, searching my heart and mind for what on earth God might be able to use me for in this world, feeling lost and unsure of any direction, my eyes rested upon the great slab of beautiful marble that rose up behind the pulpit. Into this monolith was cut the words from John 20:21, ‘Jesus said, Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, even so send I you.’ From then on, these words have become in a manner of speaking my burning bush; the stone, my Ebenezer. I had no lightning bolt of instant knowledge of what I was called to be, no actual burning shrubbery, but rather the deep and abiding reassurance that I was, as we all are, sent by God into the world. What ever I was to be, it would be because he sent me.
Some time later, it was, again, a hot summer day in Columbia and I sat again in that cool place of relief. It was midway through Summer Greek. I was doubting whether or not I should even be there. And then, there were those words again. Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, even so send I you. Throughout the next four years, through times of celebration and loss, joy and pain and even the every day ordinary-ness, there were those words of Jesus: ‘even so, send I you.’
At my ordination, which took place in that chapel, I stared long and hard at those words, as though they might fade away as I went forward onto the next turn in my path of serving God and I was trying with all my might to etch them into my memory as deeply as they were etched into the marble that they might be there forever. Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, even so, send I you.
I did not realize then, though perhaps I should have, that every last letter of that piece of scripture was already indelibly marked forever in my heart and mind. No matter what ministry looks like from day to day, no matter the struggle or the joy, the lost times and the certain times, and even in the ordinary days, these words of Jesus have never left me.
And today I would share those words with you. Wherever you are, be it in times of struggle, darkness, brokenness and healing, we are all sent. Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, even so, send I you.