The first time I ever talked formally with a pastor about my sense of call to ministry that pastor prayed with me. The second time, she handed me a book called “What Shall I Say?” This was a slim black paperback with a leaf pictured on the cover. It is the book put out by the ELCA that describes the various opportunities for ministry in the church. “What Shall I Say?” describes what an ordained pastor does, what a diaconal minister does, and so on. When I read the book, for the first time, I really saw in print what someone would expect of a pastor and how the church will guide people in different ministry roles.
The funny thing is that “What Shall I Say?” could be the theme for my ministry training. That phrase comes into my head all the time. If I know I am going to meet with someone, what shall I say? Will the words come that are helpful to this person? When I am preparing a sermon, what shall I say? How can I make this text clear and relevant to the congregation? When I am praying, what shall I say? What are the words that convey the emotions, experiences and expectations I have? Then I have my blog, the newsletter, daily conversations, Sunday School and the whole host of encounters that happen on a daily basis, what shall I say in those?
In my short time here so far, I have been encouraged and excited by the number of people who participate in the ministries of Gloria Dei. People are eager to help with AFACT, with youth, with church gatherings and with other projects. I have also met people who have good ideas about ministry opportunities and are unsure about what to do. There is a desire in the congregation to begin a ministry of visitation, both to members who might be homebound for various reasons and to people who have visited Gloria Dei for worship. Another fruit of the spirit blooms in helping with worship on Sunday morning. If ever there was an easy “burden” or light “yoke”, ushering, lecturing or assisting with communion all fit that description.
“What shall I say?” sums up Moses’ reaction to the burning bush (Exodus 3). The Lord, in the form of the flaming shrubbery, appeared to Moses and told him to go to Egypt, speak to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from slavery. Moses was worried about not being believed and about not being eloquent enough, but God assured him that all would be well and taken care of. As we know from the story, through the actions of a tongue-tied leader (and his siblings!), the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.
“What shall I say?” could be the refrain of our lives as Christians. Happily, we never have to say, “What shall I say to make God love/forgive/save me?” We have the blessed assurance that God, through Christ, has done all those things out of love for us and all creation. I realize we are not (too often) freeing people from oppressive slavery, but participation in various activities allows many people to benefit from your talents and for our congregation to grow in many ways. Despite the lack of blazing rhododendrons in my life, I believe God has provided many blessings to me, including the chance to learn from this congregation. As the year progresses, we will all continue in the ministries of this family, Gloria Dei. With God’s grace, may we continue to learn that God provides us with a way to answer “What shall I say?”