Twenty-four years ago, I stood in the pulpit where my father was pastor and spoke from my heart about what I believe. I was talking then about the belief that we Americans need to all be concerned about the crying needs of the world, looking out beyond our shores where we have a limited understanding of what constitutes "need."
At that time, the dispute over women's ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention was just getting started. It had so many folks in a panic. As I told the congregation that evening, I did not have to be ordained in order to bring a prophetic message. Nor did I have to be ordained to do ministry. I "preached" from my heart, though my father and his congregation would not have called it "preaching."
I was visiting my parents in Texas, on paid leave of absence from Malawi, where I was serving in social ministries--wrestling with the problems of extreme drought, refugees, illiteracy, and malnutrition. My parents had many needs at that moment, as well. They were my priority, and that's how it should have been. For my father was dying, even though he was still functioning relatively well and would for 2-3 more weeks. He was leaving behind two granddaughters that my parents were helping to raise. As a nurse and as a daughter, I had a special role to fulfill, and I did so even while being concerned about the work I'd left behind and my husband and two children back in Africa, managing without me.
In the back of my mind, was another concern. Yet it was not going to take center stage of my life for two more years. That was the fact that my report of a sexual predator in our midst, back in Africa, had been brushed over lightly by our American co-workers.
This past Sunday was kind of a milestone day for me. I again filled the pulpit, as I have a number of times since that day in 1984. This time, it wasn't as a missionary, and I wasn't serving to stop the panic in the church my husband pastored because (as happened one Sunday) the "supply preacher" didn't show up! This time I was the "supply preacher" because my husband asked if I was interested in doing so, since he could not be in two places at once. I must say that it was a rewarding experience to find myself in that role. What was surprising--my message contained some elements of what I had to say in 1984! It was about being pro-active and persistent, being a voice of advocacy for the oppressed in our world.
How do we manage to attend to the variety of "cooking pots" we find in our lives--when there are multiple priorities, each needing attention. It's certainly not easy. Yet we can do the most effective job by learning to focus an appropriate amount of time and attention to the particular "pot" that appears to be priority for that moment in time. We attend to our own health, first and foremost. The health of those around us and our careers. Yet we must never forget that we are extremely blessed and have a responsibility to take a look far beyond ourselves for a significant portion of our time and energy, as well.
As I see it, we are all ordained to do that. As I understand it, that is what Jesus came to teach us!