Today we hear from guest blogger, Rev. Jay Wiesner a member of the Proclaim community currently living in the Philadelphia area.
Guarding Against Illusory Hope
Eight years ago, on July 25, the Feast Day of St. James, I was ordained into the Ministry of Word & Sacrament. Sometimes it feels to me like it was just yesterday and other times it feels like it was twenty years ago. I never know what to make of the day, because my ordination was filled with so many strange sights and happenings. There are precious few ordinations that witness news cameras, picket signs, and the like. Very few pastors get the chance to be condemned by religious fanatics and zealots on the day that they officially enter into this vocation. I remember walking into our worship space we were utilizing that morning with picket signs on one side to the entrance. As I was walking in I heard someone shout out: “Bring out that faggot Wiesner!” My humor protected me from what I was feeling: “At least they pronounced my name correctly.” And Pastor Anita Hill held onto me and told me to go inside; that I didn’t need to hear these words on this day.
Truth be told, I don’t remember much from the day. After so many cameras in your face and questions raised by news reporters, it is hard to. Every once in a while, I have to go back and look at the worship folder for my ordination and remind myself what I have promised to do.
The final charge that is given right before those gathered are asked whether or not they will support the newly ordained is powerful and daunting: “Care for God’s people, bear their burdens and do not betray their confidence. So discipline yourself in life and teaching that you preserve the truth, giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope. Witness faithfully in word and deed to all people. Give and receive comfort as you serve within the Church. And be of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Illusory hope seems to be all the world can give these days. Hope in the weapons that will “protect” us. Hope in the latest technological device that will make our lives “simpler” and “more complete”. Hope in money earned that will keep our lives “secure”.
Pastors are not supposed to be in that business of illusory hope, even though we find ourselves in the same atmosphere that breathes these “hopes” as everyone else. I don’t think that there is a pastor alive who doesn’t succumb at times to these false dreams of “security” and “blessing”. What makes it even more vexing is that Jesus has been warped by many to reflect these illusory hopes that we are to guard against.
I think that there are times in my life when I have created an illusory hope of my own. I can’t speak for my fellow LGBT sisters and brothers who have walked in similar shoes; I can only speak for myself. There are times when I have held onto a hope (without fully admitting it, mind you) that I have the power to be able to communicate to the Church and world that LGBT pastors are just as good as our heterosexual, cisgender pastors. Yes, little old me. Trying to hold onto this hope that I have what it takes to make all the wrongs become rights within this “issue” can be exhausting and damaging to my soul. It is the reason that I hear a voice inside of my soul say: “You’re the reason why the Church is at war. You’re the reason why so many people are angry.”
Nowhere in the liturgy of my ordination service did it say: “Spend hours, days, months, and years of your life proving to the world that you are just as good as other pastors and people within the body of Christ who claim that you have no business here today. Bend over backwards to legitimize your standing in the Church.” Instead, it said things like: Pray. Study, read, and live the Scriptures. Nourish the Church with the Word and Sacraments. Let God’s love be known in all that you do. There’s no illusory hope in any of that. Instead, there’s a whole lot of real hope grounded in Christ, whose foolish message of the kingdom of God is the wisdom that changes everything this world builds up and proclaims.
On this eighth anniversary marking the day when I was set apart to the office of Word and Sacrament, I give thanks and I let go. I give thanks for all of those wise and broken saints and sinners that have nurtured the faith I have received from the Holy Spirit in Jesus. I give thanks for their love, words, and deeds. And I let go of any hare-brained idea that I have what it takes to make all of the misunderstanding and discrimination be wiped away, because I don’t. No one does, save for one. That is the one who equips all of us:
“The God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of eternal covenant, equip you with everything good so that you may do God’s will, working in you that which is pleasing in God’s sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
The Rev. Jay Wiesner was extraordinarily ordained on July 25, 2004. He served as pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis from 2004-2008. Jay was a member of the ELM Roster until he was received onto the ELCA Clergy Roster in 2010. Jay is a co-founder of The Naming Project, a faith-based youth group serving youth of all sexual and gender identities. Jay is a member of Proclaim and has served as pastor of University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation in Philadelphia since 2008.