“I thank my God for every remembrance of you, always in every one of my prayers for all of you, praying with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
2023 is a year of significant anniversaries for me. This month marks 20 years since I first preached a Sunday morning sermon, in the church where I grew up. The next month I began serving as a pastor part-time while a seminary student. February 10th will also be the 15th anniversary of my ordination to the ministry. And in May, John and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage.
These moments always make me reflect on the journey that brought me to where I am, and especially, on the people that have been a part of that journey along the way. I think of Sunday school teachers who nurtured my faith early on; the elderly widows that always sat in the pew in front of us and were unfailingly kind and loving; I think of my mom’s cousin Kathy, who attended that first sermon just weeks before her passing, and offered me one of the kindest and most sincere compliments I’ve ever received. Kathy was not one to throw out compliments or praise lightly; if she gave it, you knew it was sincere. Her words helped give me the confidence that I was on the right path. 20 years of ministry have followed.
One of the practices we had in that church when I was growing up was to recite the Apostles’ Creed every Sunday. The Apostles’ Creed is one of the earliest statements of faith that the church created in the early centuries of Christianity, and near the end, one of the lines says that “I believe in…the communion of saints.” I never really understood what that meant growing up, and even as a student and then a pastor, I don’t really think I grasped the fullness of affirming that I believe in the “communion of saints.” Sure, there are people who’ve lived lives of holiness and justice, great examples to follow—but after two decades of ministry, I think I’m beginning to understand what that phrase means. I’ve encountered my share of saints over these years, and as I look back, I can still feel the presence of so many of them. I can remember how they nurtured me. I draw on their example in my life. It’s a relationship that continues, that’s ongoing. I think that’s what the communion of saints is all about. The relationship never ends—it just changes. And it continues to shape us in the present.
One of the people that grew up in that church many years ago was a man named Leon Jaworski. Jaworski’s father had been the pastor, and Leon grew up in the parsonage and attended Baylor University, becoming a lawyer. He went on to prosecute war crimes for the Allies in the aftermath of World War II, and served as the special prosecutor during Watergate. In his memoir, “Crossroads,” he quotes the Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold, who was a devout Christian and served as the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the mid-twentieth century. One of his most famous quotes is a brief prayer: “For all that has been, Thanks. To all that shall be, Yes.”
In gratitude for the journey thus far, for my husband and all who continue to support me today, I too offer that prayer: For all that has been, Thanks. To all that shall be, Yes.