Jana and I received cards from Luther Seminary this past week congratulating us (and honestly, reminding us) that June 28 was the 20th anniversary or our ordinations. I remember that night, two decades ago, at Roseville Lutheran, when so many of you joined us for that Holy moment. Thanks to many of you, family and friends…for being there then, and thanks for being there over the past twenty years.
There have been some extreme highs in ministry, where one just sits back and is in awe of being called by God to the role of pastor. To those of you whom we were blessed to have as parishioners in the congregations where we served …. and now, to those of you we meet and do life with at Mount Carmel and through Kairos Consulting and Paraphrase Theatre … (and even, in its own way, those of you we keep up with and share life with here on Facebook) … thanks for inviting us into the moments of incredible joy in your life…. babies born, children and adults baptized, wacky unpredictable children’s messages, high schoolers confirmed, unforgettable retreats and mission trips, sharing the Gospel through spoken word, drama, music, art, and dance …. learning to serve in small groups and using our spiritual gifts. Learning to love and forgive. Weddings, anniversaries, renewed health, prayers for healing answered with a yes from God. What a privilege to be invited in to share those moments with you.
And what an HONOR it has been to be invited in to your darkest moments. Last days in the hospital, broken marriages — some repaired, some not… betrayals, self-doubt, addictions, questions, loss of faith, cancer, and of course… death. What an absolute gift.. hard as it may be at times… to stand beside you and pray as you say goodbye to those you love and lean in to the hope of the Gospel. We have laughed with you, cried with you, rejoiced with you, hurt with you, grown with you.
You have changed us, witnessed to us and made us stronger pastors through your honesty, forgiveness, patience and your faith in the midst of the tears.
And you… so many of you… have held us up in laughter and hugs and meals delivered and babysitting and financial support and sharing of scripture and songs when we could not sing and prayers when we could not pray.. and in private conversations of encouragement and words of affirmation when we could have given up… and oh, the outpouring of support as we walked through three very difficult journeys of serious health scares… first for me and then, twice, for Jana. Unbelievable support that reminded us that there IS a God of love, even when we might have, in our weakness been tempted to doubt. You have been there for us.
And for those who carried us through two very difficult times when fellow Christians and leaders in the church… or in the pew, in their weakness, failed to love well, with the love and faithfulness of Christ… you were there for us then too, and perhaps most powerfully. And you need to know that love and support is still very vivid in our minds and hearts, and we are eternally grateful.
Thanks, too, to my theatre friends.. both in the church and in the community theaters in the areas where we have lived and served. You often kept me balanced and healthy and laughing, when life and this calling could, at times, get heavy. You let me “play” and enjoy community and do the thing I love, with people I love. I am more grateful for that than you may realize. I VALUE our friendships and hope they will continue to grow.
Thanks, too, to Christina and Caitlyn. You have lived through one crazy ride… being a part of these callings, even though you never had a choice in the matter. You have seen your parents at their best and their worst.. using their strongest giftings and nearly giving in to their darker sin or pain. And yet, you have continued to love.. and to forgive and to understand that this is a very unique calling.. and your parents are human and often weak And yet, most amazing, you have kept the faith.. and continued to shine your lights for Christ SO very strongly in the worlds you run in. You have brought us, and SO many around you, more joy than you will ever know. Thanks for being the brightest spot in “Team Swenson” even though you had to grow up too quickly, at times, as a result of being pastor’s kids and as a result of the health struggles our family has endured. You are the greatest joy of our lives and the greatest reminders of God’s JOY and GRACE. Thank-you.
20 years. It has been the most joyful and most difficult of callings. We are grateful, still, to be called.. and grateful to share the journey with so many of you.
God’s peace and joy to you good friends. Carry on in Christ.