Sunday was a long day. Good, but long. It started with leaving the house at 7:00 AM for Praise Band rehearsal and didn't end until we pulled in at 9:30 in the evening after a road trip to Daytona Beach.
Rebekah, Tim and I left church right at noon and jumped into the car to head over to the other coast for Jenny Sumner Carswell's ordination as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. Jenny spent the summer in Brandon as our ministry intern two years ago.
Jenny was ordained at her home church, Westminster-by-the-Sea out at Daytona Beach (Check out the "ordination shoes"; Jenny has always known how to roll style and flair into the ecclesiastical). Rebekah and I haven't been to Daytona since she was "in conversation" with First Presbyterian 14 years ago. I love the feel of the Atlantic coast, driving out over the Intra-coastal Waterway, and walking the beaches we used to spend so much time on during our college years at Stetson.
Rebekah was invited to preach the ordination sermon, and she used a surprising but wonderfully appropriate text from 2 Corinthians. The key idea was/is the tremendous responsibility that's associated with our calling (and it's a calling we all share) to re-tell the Gospel story without compromise. Here's the key passage - Rebekah used Eugene Peterson's translation from The Message:
"In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.
"This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No— but at least we don't take God's Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ's presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can."
To me the compelling image in this passage is that of the "exquisite fragrance". The idea that our witness to life is like fresh-baked bread, magnolia blossoms, or clear air after a heavy rain on a hot summers' day... that there is - potentially - something powerfully invitational about the way that we represent Christ in the way we live our faith out loud.
I don't know about you, but I pray every day that the story my life tells helps heal the damage done by those who - as Paul writes - "Take God's Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap."
Rebekah charged Jenny, and everyone in the church, to be "an aroma redolent with life." This morning, I'm just passing that along - DEREK
Below: Jenny, Rebekah, and Jenny's husband, Brian