This address was given on the occasion of the ordination of a dear friend to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament of the Presbyterian church. I present it as part of my reflection on my own calling. To post here, I have edited to remove proper nouns.

Let mutual love continue, and do not be afraid to welcome strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels unawares.

This summer, I took a trip up to the boundary waters, and sitting with friends on a rock overlooking a beautiful lake, I thought of these words. and I thought of you. I didn’t know why. I think I’ve figured it out.

There are too many words I want to give you, for you are a dear friend, an inspiration, a mentor, a rock of shelter, a sharer of deep joy, a co-creator, a partner in prayer. But I will keep myself to a few ones that I hope will lift up the ministry you have already done.

When I first came to chapel services, I failed to recognize you as a chaplain…I was convinced you were a student, albeit one that particularly loved to participate. This misrecognition is what I want to lift up. for this misrecognition was one of the best things I did in that circle. because when you asked me a few weeks later to help the community remember our friend Paul Wellstone, I already thought it possible that the Word of God could come to someone like me, because I certain knew it had come to you.

So many more misrecognitions. We thought we were honored to support you in your quest for ordination. we had no idea. we had NO idea. We had no idea that not only would your word shake the foundations, but all the things that you build and rebuild as you journeyed on. I think of seeing the relief on an face of an ally when we told her of your good news from the session.

I get to stay in the church! After all these years, it is still home!

You are helping the light pour in, and it has opened my eyes. You may think that your ministry has been to be in community with students, to lead worship, to break bread, set open tables, to pray with us, to be in our lives with us. I say to you, that you have misrecognized. And thanks be to God for that…You have been welcoming Christ with us, teaching us to live in the resurrection, to feel God’s gracious and merciful love poured out to us, surrounding us, going with us always.

Let mutual love continue. Continue to welcome strangers, for we have already welcomed angels unawares.

-sly c