20 Years of Service

Twenty years ago yesterday, on the feast of my patron Saint Luke the Evangelist, I was ordained to the priesthood in Tirana, Albania by His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios. Faith and I began our ministry in Albania, and served there for 10 and a half years. We are now approaching 10 years of service here in Webster. By God’s grace, we have been greatly blessed during these last 20 years, by the countless people who have enriched our lives, by the unique experiences we have had, and by the brothers and sisters we have worked with and the ones we have tried to serve. We truly thank God for what we hope have been faithful years of service. I also especially thank God for the worthy partner and co-minister He gave me in Presbytera Faith!

We have received such joy in growing in our relationship with God, in serving Him in both wonderful and challenging times, in sharing and trying to witness His Good News with whomever we have met, and in striving to love and serve our neighbor and all those whose paths we have crossed.

In my ordination sermon 20 years ago, I noted my fear of unworthiness and inadequacy in serving God as a priest, and yet, I highlighted my call to service. “Such a calling is based upon my awareness and trust in the unfathomable depth of God’s grace. Our Lord said to St Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Well, I respond to that by saying, “Here I am Lord, full of many imperfections and weaknesses. Accept me, cleanse me, change me, transform me according to your will, use me in whatever way You see fit.”

 I also placed my hope in something else. “St. Peter writes that all baptized believers are a part of the ‘royal priesthood’ of the Church. So I place my hope in support we will receive from this ‘royal priesthood.”

I can only take the step forward toward ordination if I know that there is a team behind Faith and me, supporting us, loving us, encouraging us, and protecting us. We ask everyone present to make a commitment to pray regularly for us and the ministry we begin. St Paul sought out such prayer partners throughout his life. “I appeal to you brothers, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf … that my ministry may be acceptable to the saints.” (Romans15:30)

So what can our partners pray for? Pray that we will always be filled with a spirit of love which outshines all else. Before being a preacher, a teacher, a theologian, or an administrator, we want to be lovers – one who receives and experiences God’s intimate and personal love, one who loves God back with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and one who radiates this love onto each and every person with whom we have contact.

Pray that we may overcome every temptation of pride and arrogance. We need a continual spirit of humble service. Pray we continually grow in holiness, a sanctity which helps us see more clearly the ineffable beauty of God, and the path which leads to union with such beauty. Pray that we may grow in wisdom and learning, so that we understand the Gospel, apply it in our lives, set an example for others to imitate, and thus become truly wise.  Pray also we may always be aflame with the unwaning light of Christ. In Revelation, the Apostle John describes how God condemns the Church of Ephesus for “abandoning the love they first had” (Rev 2:4). Pray that our idealistic zeal may never wane, that a desire for boldness to proclaim the truth may never diminish, and that courage to proclaim the kingdom of God, even when it is hard to accept may not disappear.”

Please pray that we may have a small dose of:

             The strength of Samson

             The prayerfulness of Hannah

             The wisdom of Solomon

             The courage of David

             The patience and integrity of Job

             The leadership of Moses

             The prophetic voice of John the Baptist

             The humility of the Virgin Mary

             The love of Mary Magdalene

             The hope of the myrrh-bearing women

             The faith of Peter

             The boldness of Paul

             The tongue of John Chrysostom

             The sanctity of Seraphim of Sarov

             And the missionary zeal of St Innocent of Alaska.

If the faithful gathered in this church today make a covenant to offer such prayers to our Lord, then I take courage in approaching my ordination. Such support and prayers, combined with the knowledge of God’s inexplicable and unfathomable grace, bring me before you now…”

At this point in my ordination sermon, I thanked many people who brought me to that point in my life – my parents and family, my beloved wife, my mentors throughout life at Church camp and at seminary, the amazing people I met in Africa and Albania during various mission trips, and many others.

Today, after 20 years as a priest, I want to thank once again the many wonderful and faithful people that I have served – those in Albania, those at the seminary, and you here in Webster.

Truly, with the deepest gratitude and joy, I thank God for serving Him as a priest. In my mind, there is no greater blessing than to act as a servant of God in this manner.

Please continue to pray for me and Faith as we strive to serve our Lord and His people for our next 20 years of service!

 

 

 

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