Ordination Sermon: Caitlin Trussell


Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 84:1-5a; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40  

Well, Caitlin, it’s no surprise you’ve chosen these texts for today. Not because they are so obvious for an ordination, they aren’t necessarily a battle cry for charging into ministry, but because they are the prescribed lectionary texts for today, February 2nd. The lectionary has a divine rhythm that you’ve discovered, a pulse of spirituality. And that took precedence for you over an event. Even one so long-awaited, so important, so celebrative, and (did I say?) sooo long-awaited as your ordination into the ministry of Word and sacrament. No surprise. Over the years, your life has taken on a new rhythm, Caitlin. Not a rhythm dictated by daily calendar events or life-stresses, but a rhythm called out by the divine. You live the events of your life, celebrating and stressing, but there’s a deeper rhythm pulsing, breathing beneath those things. That is something I’ve been learning from you. So it’s no surprise you’ve chosen for your ordination the texts for February 2, The Presentation of Our Lord. I’m just glad you weren’t ordained on the day when the texts were the woman caught in adultery or Ezekiel burning his dung. Anna and Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple? That’s OK; I’m feeling rather fortunate. Many of us have been waiting with you impatiently for this day. But you’ve come to recognize that there’s been a divine rhythm, even to this journey. A deeply spiritual breathing that you’ve come to accept—and even appreciate. That, I believe, is an important gift you bring to the world, Caitlin. Breathing in rhythm with the divine breath in the midst of chaos, stress, impatience, struggles, and calendars. This gospel text, and the other ones today also, reveal for us a divine rhythm present in the world. A rhythm that the people of God have tried to live and ritualize. And that is the blessing and the curse of the church—particularly of rostered leaders in the church. “When the time came,” Luke writes. “When the time came for their purification,” they went to Jerusalem, up to the temple. Part of the rhythm of their lives. 40 days after a male child was born. Timing, rhythm. Breath. Simeon came to the temple then. Called by the divine, according to a promise made to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He had lived his life according to this promise and was eager to adjust his life, his breathing, to be in time with the divine breath bringing about the consolation of Israel. The prophet Anna was at the temple all the time. She spent every day devoted to the rhythm of God. Worshiping, fasting, praying night and day. These two people, in divine rhythm, were at the temple when Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to dedicate him to the Lord. One of the joys and responsibilities of rostered ministry, Caitlin, is to live and to keep this divine rhythm with a community of people. You’ve been called here to Augustana Lutheran Church to do that. A divine rhythm breathing life beneath the calendars, the events, the meetings, the emergencies, the constant demands a pastor’s life. It can be distracting; we can lose the beat. In order to try and live into the divine rhythm all around us, we’ve set up our own rhythms within the church. A three-year lectionary, seasons of the church year, worship every Sunday—complete with sacraments and proclamation of the Word, age-appropriate education leading to the Rite of Confirmation—the Affirmation of Baptism. And if some are really devout, even ongoing education beyond that! Baptisms, weddings, funerals—mile-markers in life; installations of councils, election of leaders, stewardship campaign, adopting a budget. There’s a rhythm to it all. That can be a blessing. God is present in that. The rhythm of the church is part of a pastor’s life, but that must never get confused with the divine rhythm breathing underneath it all. That’s the curse—it’s easy to let the rhythm of our job be confused with the rhythm God. One can point to the other, but can never replace the other. Part of your call as an ordained minister of Word and sacrament in this church is to keep us aware of the divine rhythm. Call us back into it. Remind us of what God is doing and when God is doing it. Proclaim the divine rhythm of forgiveness out of brokenness, mercy out of helplessness, generosity out of poverty, life out of death. Breathe in time with the divine. With Simeon and Anna, recognize the light of God’s salvation, which God has prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to God’s people Israel. And in the face of this world’s (and our church’s) chaos, live in that rhythm. That’s pretty deep, isn’t it? Sounds kind of poetic. Divine breath, holy rhythm, Anna and Simeon. Perhaps it’s a good reminder, and something to be attuned to. But here’s the thing: you won’t do it. Your own out-of-sync rhythm will never be far out of reach. In other words, Caitlin, (and let me use the appropriate theological terminology), you’re going to screw it up. Using all the amazing gifts you have, tapping into all the wonderful theological education you’ve experienced, discerning with the wisest leaders a course of action, taking time to make the most prayer-filled decisions, you will be out of step with the Jesus. That’s one of the hardest things for rostered leaders to get, especially when they are as gifted as you. It’s not about us or our effort or our gifts and talents. It’s not our rhythm, after all. It’s about Jesus. So hooray for Anna and Simeon! How cool they could be in the temple when baby Jesus was brought in. How wonderful they could speak of God’s salvation and revelation and glory. How fulfilling it must have been for them to articulate God’s redemption so magnificently. But it’s not really about them, is it? Your most spirit-filled sermon isn’t about how gifted a preacher you are. Your most comforting pastoral care isn’t about how well you pray at someone’s bedside. It’s not about your rhythm, it’s about God’s. And that will be an ongoing struggle. But God’s rhythm, the very pulse of God, is grace and forgiveness and mercy. So Jesus comes into your broken rhythm and matches his pulse to yours; his breathing to yours. That grace and forgiveness and mercy will continue to wash over you in never-ending waves. It will keep blowing through you as a constant breath. God’s gracious, forgiving pulse is not only for the people with whom you minister—but it is for you too. That’s the rhythm to which you are called—the rhythm of forgiveness and mercy with Jesus. Thank God it’s a rhythm that is underneath all you are and all you do. It’s always there; you can’t get away from it; it’s constantly with you. It can get pretty annoying. Because in our brokenness, we want it to be about our breath and our rhythm. But it’s not our rhythm, not our breath, not our pulse. It is God’s—that comes to us, meets us, and includes us. Thanks be to God for that. God’s rhythm of grace is with you and will include you again and again. A divine breath to which you’ve been awakened. As you take on the challenges and the joys of Word and sacrament ministry here with the people of Augustana, with the larger church, and with the world, may that divine breath meet you, sustain you, fill you, and give you life. The very pulse of God is for you, my friend and my colleague. Amen.

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