Sermon on Zachary Courter's ordination

Sermon on Zachary Courter's ordination

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Text: Kirby Unti, photo: Tamás Kiss
Kirby Unti (ELCA) bishop's sermon on Zachary Courter's ordination, in Budapest-Citypark Lutheran Church, on 5. Oktober 2018.

Grace and peace be unto you from God our creator and our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is with great joy that Pastor Shelley and I are able to be with you today and an even greater joy to bring greetings from Elizabeth Eaton the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church to you Bishop Fabiny Tamas, Ordinand Zachary and the Lutheran Church of Hungry.

Bishop Eaton so delights in our being together because central to her teaching about what it means to be church is that we are church at its best when we are church together for the sake of world.

Being here with all of you - CHURCH TOGETHER – is to experience God more fully. I know God takes delight when God children gather together in God’s name.

Zachary and Rachel commend you for living out what Pastor Shelley and I are trying to teach our pastors in the United States – what it means to leave the four walls of the church, boldly enter into the neighborhood and the world to discover how God is out ahead of us doing amazing things.

Your work with Young Adults in Global Mission lifts up the very posture we want our pastors back home to learn. What does it mean to discover Jesus by accompanying, walking alongside God’s people whom we have not yet met. Because it always involves learning a new language. A language other than Church talk.

Zachary, I was pleased to see that you chose Jeremiah 23 as one of the Biblical passages to mark the day of your ordination. It speaks so boldly to what it means to be a minister of God’s word in the world today. We need young prophets like you.

Last week at the Conference of Bishops I shared with three bishops who I was having dinner with that I was going to Budapest to ordain Zachary. I asked them what should I say to this young prophet on the day of his ordination.

Bishop Dunlop said, “Tell him it comes down to one thing. Preach the Gospel. Interpreted – Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.

Bishop Jaech said, remind him that God has called him, and breathed into him His word and equipped him to be a pastor. Tell Zachary to be at home in his skin – to be himself - to be authentic.

Bishop Gustafson said to hold up the importance of preaching the truth even when the people do not want to hear it. This is the truth that has the capacity to burn like fire and shatter even rock.

I call upon the great English actor Macready to additional encouragement to this day. An eminent preacher once said to him: "I wish you would explain to me something." "Well, what is it? I don't know that I can explain anything to a preacher." "What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all." Macready's answer was this: "This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.”

Pastors who preach with fire - preach from the burning that is with them - the word of God that has breathed and is being breathed into you. The same word that called you to this crazy journey that you have been on.

I have learned from working with pastors this important lesson, “Never forget your calling.”

A second piece of wisdom is a truth about Jeremiah that nearly killed him. He loved the people that he spoke hard words to. Zachary love the people. Love the people the way Jesus has loved you. Jesus the word that became truth and dwelt among us full of truth and Grace.

Jeremiah made it clear that God is both very near and very far from us.

The word you proclaim must be close to the people in order to love the people and yet far enough away to transcend the people. You will know this truth as a pastor. You will be very close to your people and yet to be true to your calling you must remain their pastor/prophet because this is what you are being called to.

In closing I want to move to the Gospel of Luke where Jesus sends out the seventy – two by two.

Remember God has not sent you out alone. You not only have Rachel. You are surrounded by the baptized. Never go it alone. Empower the people to do the ministry. To get you off on a good start I invited the entire Conference of Bishops to pray for you.

When you go out with your people learn from those who were first sent by Jesus to rejoice in those who are open to the word but do not lose sleep over those who will not give you the time of day. Shake the dust off your feet and move on wishing peace to all.

Perhaps most importantly remember what you are discovering here in Budapest, what it means to practice radical hospitality. Hospitality that is not based on inviting others into the comfort of your home but entering the home of the stranger and eating whatever is placed before you.

Pastor Shelley and I thank you for inviting us to join with you the the sisters and brothers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary to celebrate that you Zachary have been set aside as prophet and pastor of Word and Sacrament.

I pray God’s richest blessings on you and Rachel and the people you serve, confident that together you will experience the Risen Lord in your midst as God’s will is done in Budapest as in heaven.


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