This month marks three years of ministry here. My first Sunday was Easter Sunday 2012. Now three years is not that long, I understand that. But around this time of year, I remember arriving here in Baltimore to start the next chapter of our lives. And sometimes it is good as we remember to also renew or recommit. For instance, how wonderful when a couple renews their wedding vows on a special anniversary! So I want to ask for your indulgence here.
Two favors I ask of you: 1) Cast your minds back and remember when you first joined LRPC. 2) Reaffirm your membership vows even as I reaffirm my ordination and installation vows.
Please take this for what it is: a sincere expression of my love and commitment to God and you, His people. And in asking you to recall the time you joined this particular church, I hope that all I am asking you to do is remember your love of Christ and joy in joining His people here.
And I trust you know that I do this (and ask you to join me in doing this) humbly. I struggle and need God’s grace to actually live out an affirmative answer to these questions! We all understand how hard it is to really live and work and worship together with other sinners. But we are saved by grace and united by the Holy Spirit and love Jesus! So here goes . . .
At the installation service on April 22nd 2012 I stood before you, the congregation, and answered these questions affirmatively:
- Are you now willing to take charge of this congregation as their pastor, agreeable to your decision in accepting its call?
- Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that, in taking upon you this charge, you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of the Church?
- Do you solemnly promise that, by the assistance of the grace of God, you will endeavor faithfully to discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation, and will be careful to maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the Gospel of Christ, agreeable to your ordination engagements?
I said “Yes” then and I publicly reaffirm that my answer is “Yes” today.
Those weren’t the only serious questions that I was asked! Earlier, when I was ordained and installed in my first pastorate, I had to answer affirmatively these eight ordination vows:
- Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice? (“I do”)
- Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures: and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow? (“I do”)
- Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity? (“I do”)
- Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord? (“I do”)
- Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son? (“I have”)
- Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account? (“I do”)
- Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer? (“I do”)
- Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a pastor?
You may or may not remember hearing a minister answer those questions at his ordination; you may not even recall seeing me stand before you a few years ago. That’s OK! Perhaps you only joined LRPC last week (which, praise the Lord, a couple of you did!), or maybe you weren’t able to make it that particular Sunday afternoon. But I wasn’t the only one answering questions that day. There are four questions that are answered affirmatively from the people for the installation of a minister to be complete. Especially if you are new to us, I’d like to lay out the promises made by the congregation from the Book of Church Order 21-6.
- Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive ______, whom you have called to be your pastor?
- Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love, and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline?
- Do you promise to encourage him in his labors, and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?
- Do you engage to continue to him while he is your pastor that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised, and to furnish him with whatever you may see needful for the honor of religion and for his comfort among you?
I wanted to write these things down to encourage your hearts and mine. God is faithful, and while there are discouragements for the pastor, so too there are discouragements for the people. Yet we serve a Risen Savior who loves us and will never leave us or forsake us. God is also very good, and He blesses us with many delights along the way. Ministry is hard, whether one is in the pulpit or the pew; but praise can still be on our lips and peace in our hearts because our strength and hope are in the Lord.
May God graciously work in our hearts and lives to His glory as you and I remember and reflect on our questions and reaffirm our answers. To God be the glory!
With love and thanks to God for you all,