Archive for October 2016

Showing Up: The Power of Presence

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     As pastors we are often told that part of our role is embodying the presence of Jesus for others. Incarnational imagery is often invoked to inspire us to be Jesus to those we meet; just as God left the glory of heaven to put on humanity and dwell among us, we are to dwell among people as well, mourning with those who mourn, and being present with people during the greatest joys and greatest tragedies of their lives.
     Our very presence is supposed to illustrate the presence of God to people. Our presence is important. Just showing up and being there, is important. Whether that be in a hospital room or a coffee shop, our presence matters.
      As a woman in ministry, I've discovered there is another layer to the importance of showing up. When a clergywoman shows up something is said about God. The presence of God looks female with the challenges and joys that come along with that.
    While waiting in the dinner line at the reception for a wedding I had just officiated, a woman approached me. She was probably in her mid 60's and had the sweetest smile. Her hand rested gently on my arm as she said "My heart was full when I saw you officiating the wedding. When I was young, women could only do two things, be a teacher (which I was) or be a nurse. As those two little flower girls walked down the aisle towards you, all I could think was 'they will know they can do anything, because they are seeing a woman pastor. You did such a beautiful job, and I want to encourage you to keep doing what you are doing."
     My eyes welled up a bit as she spoke. It might be the sweetest compliment I have ever received after a wedding, but it also illustrated to me the importance of presence, something I often forget.
     I forget that when I get behind a pulpit on a Sunday morning, that just my presence communicates something to the little girls in the front row, with their children's bulletins on their laps.

It tells them that they are created in the image of God, and that they can share that image with others. It tells them that God calls and uses everyone for the kingdom. They will never have to be told that despite what they have seen, women can be pastors, preachers, teachers, and leaders, they will just know, because they've seen it week after week. 
     I forget that when I show up to a wedding, filled with people from various backgrounds and views, that my presence says something to them. That it tells them that God loves women too. That marriage isn't about some sort of patriarchal submission but that it's a beautiful partnership where two can lead together.  

    I forget that when I tell students in my classrooms that I am a pastor, that they hear something powerful. That within that small phrase, and that small act, they imagine something different than what many of them have seen. That they start to imagine a world for themselves that they've never thought of before. 
    I forget that when I stand behind the altar and break the bread and pour the wine, that many will see it in a new light because of my presence there. That they will see the broken and spilled out Jesus in a new way. That when I hold babies over the baptismal font, that the image becomes one of a mother bathing her child, and the image of sacrifice becomes something powerful when words of death and life are spoken within that context. 
    I forget that when I show up at theology conferences, or district assembly, that there are young women, older women, and children who are watching. That by standing up front, that by singing in the elder's choir, that by being there, people are learning something about God, and that they are learning something about women, and how God views women. 
    So when an older woman approaches me with tears in her eyes and tells me to "keep being faithful to God's call in your life" and she calls to mind all the little girls and women who saw something different because it was me who officiated the wedding, I listen, and I tear up myself, and I promise myself that I will remember.
    I will remember that what I do matters. Showing up matters. My presence matters. Every Sunday, every coffee meeting, every wedding, every hospital visit, every district meeting, every opportunity to serve the Eucharist, every time I preach, every time I sit with those who grieve, every time I baptize a baby or a new saint, every single time I show up... it matters. I hope I never forget.