A Reflection and Renewal


John 15:9-17

iAs the Father has loved me, jso have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 kIf you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as lI have kept mmy Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, nthat my joy may be in you, and that oyour joy may be full.

12 p“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 qGreater love has no one than this, rthat someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are smy friends tif you do what I command you. 15 uNo longer do I call you servants,1 for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for xall that I have heard from my Father yI have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but zI chose you and appointed you that you should go and abear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that bwhatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, cso that you will love one another.

On this date in the mist’s of time it seems these days, I was confirmed in the United Methodist Church. I was twelve years old, it was one of the happiest day of my life, and three months later I felt my heart “strangely warmed” to use the words of John Wesley, and thus my calling to ministry, and as they say the rest is history.

    It was in the Church, and the ministry,  that I found the answer to the question raised by Emily Dickinson: “”I’m no body! Who are you? Are you nobody?” For in the Gospel as our Scripture tells we are loved, with a love that will not let us go, we are friends with Jesus, and we are called to love others in the same way. Ministry has never been a job, it is my calling. A calling that an old Black poem describes:

“Done made my vow to the Lord,

And I never will turn back,

I will go, I shall go

To see what the end will be.

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I”m down,

See what the end will be,

But still my soul is heav’nly bound,

See what the end will be.”

It is a calling which leads me to put myself second to others in service to others. Ministry is not a “job” you retire from, but one in which you grow and develop. At my ordination my District Superintendent fondly shared with me these words: “You are like a piece of wood, a new piece of wood, and you begin to carve, to shape it, to create, you make mistakes, and you carve over them and the wood becomes more beautifully, ministry is painful, but as you shape your piece of art you will shine more brightly.” And so it has been, I make a hell of a lot of mistakes, but I grow, and I see the face of Christ more brightly.

I have  found the Church to be a dangerous place and very frightening at times, probably the most dangerous place on earth, because the cover of the Divine can be used to administer violence, after all  it is a human institution. As Dorothy Day once said: “The Church is a whore, but she is also our Mother,” and so ultimately I look for our Mother in individuals who show the love of God imperfectly, but are the love of God.

One night last week I spent hours listening to a teen who had been rejected, judged, by his church–one of the most progressive churches in the country, but again we are dealing with humans who do not share their inner feelings–over his sexuality, and simply him  being a young adult, because he did not fit the stereotypes (and believe me I know how that feels). He feels unsafe, and where that leads, only the future will tell. I do not wear all black when I am in clergy dress, I always wear colored shirts or mix up the colors of my pants if I wear black, because the all black attire symbolizes to many sexual and judgmental abuse. Frankly I do not feel comfortable being around male  clergy (or even middle age males,)  in black, unless they are women, from my own personal experience. The truth is the effects of abuse never goes away–we simply work with that experience  pain in our life, a major defacing  in our piece of wood we are carving and in the process beauty will come out of that pain. It never goes away.

And so on this day I renew my vows of baptism, “To accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,” my vow at confirmation: “To be loyal to the Church,” and at ordination, “To Preach the Word, and Administer the Sacraments.”   And so I am still sloughing my way towards Galilee, as all of us do own our journey. I have much joy in my life, and the joy and thanksgiving for being in ministry knows no bounds. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.




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