Once a year I participate in something called a Chrism Mass. It is a worship service that blesses and consecrates oil for anointing. We use anointing oil for baptisms but it can be used for other purposes as well. I did not go to this worship service for the oil. I went because it is also the one time a year I renew my ordination vows. It is not required but I choose to go every year. I also participated in a service like this when I lived near Chicago.
The Chrism Mass worship is geared for pastors and deacons but all are welcome because corporate worship is always public and never private. I was surrounded by colleagues from the Bay Area. From as far south as Carmel and as far north as San Francisco. After the service, we ate lunch together. Oh and our bishop was there too.
As we came to the part of the service where we renewed our ordination vows, I was especially struck by one of the promises. “Are you resolved to continue to preach faithfully and teach diligently the word of God as it is found in the Holy Scriptures and taught in the confessions of this Church?” The response to this question and the others was “I am so resolved.”
This question corresponds to one of my ordination vows which also relates to the constitution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America under section 7.31.02.
As I reflected on this vow, it occurred to me that over the years, various people do not understand that I am bound to this promise. That somehow, the things I say and the decision I make as a pastor are totally based on personal opinion and nothing else. Sure, I have opinions. Everybody does. However, when it comes to the work I do, I feel compelled to turn to the scriptures. I trust the Scripture not only to guide me but also to mold me.
I also understand that not every pastor does that. Sigh.
I was having a great theological discussion with a member via email and I described myself as being an orthodox Christian. Not the denomination (Greek or Russian Orthodox) but that I believe in the traditional, historic and theological beliefs passed down through the Bible and the Lutheran perspective as found in the Book of Concord. That might surprise some of you.
If I did not have the scriptures as a foundation I would be lost. What would be the point of preaching? Or teaching? Or even making a decision? It would be all based on opinion or personal preference. That is not appealing to me at all.
I enjoy a good theological discussion. It does not bother me in the least to have people disagree with me on theological grounds. After all, we have many denominations don’t we? It is good to talk about issues using scripture as a foundation for dialogue even if there is not universal agreement.
There is one other reason I take this and my other ordination vows seriously. There is an admonition found in the book James within the third chapter. Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. This verses causes me to pause. I am held to a higher accountability. I will be judged by God with more rigor for the things I say and the things I do. I do not take that lightly.
If you ever wondered what makes me tick, now you know.
This renewal of vows was good for me because it made me stop and think about what I have promised to do until I take my last breath.
God bless you,