This past weekend, I was blessed to be a part of the ordination service for Christopher Miller. Chris and I met at Princeton Theological Seminary while participating in the choir. After seminary, I was called to Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church and Chris was the intern there for two years. Chris was not only a wonderful colleague but also a true friend.
Many friends, family, and colleague surrounded Chris on July 5 to celebrate with and pray for him as he began his ministry as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church USA. One of those friends was Rev. Brian Ellison who brought the Word of God for the people gathered. His sermon centered on this passage from Hebrews;
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Hebrews 12:1
Rev. Ellison used a wonderful image that stuck with me from his sermon. He said that when he hears this passage, he imagines a stage where he is standing front and center with the spotlight on him. The audience can only see him, but as he looks to his right and to his left there are tons of people back stage and in the wings who have helped him, who are supporting him, who are there to feed him lines, or give a nod of encouragement.
My favorite part of ordination services is the moment when deacons, elders, and pastors are called forward for the Laying on of Hands; a prayer of blessing for the newly ordained individual. Right before this prayer during my own ordination service, Stephen Heinzel Nelson asked me to stand up and turn around to look at all the people who had come forward. And it was at that very moment that I began to tear up. I looked around at the faces of Sunday School teachers, youth group advisors, fellow pastors, members of multiple congregations, family, and friends who had walked with me on my journey. It was incredible! Not everyone is blessed with a moment like this, but I want to remind everyone that no one is on the journey of faith alone. Each of us has a cloud of witnesses waiting in the wings.