Take Authority

On Sunday, June 5, 2022, roundabouts 7 pm in the Florence Center in Florence, SC, I will be ordained as an elder in The United Methodist Church. For those not as familiar with United Methodist lingo, my journey towards becoming a full-fledged, bonafide (and, as my grandmother would say, justified, sanctified, and satisfied) pastor will reach a major milestone. As I’ve shared with many of you, I first heard the call to pastoral ministry around the communion table nearly one decade ago. I was drawn to the table where all who love Jesus are invited, without exception. I wanted to be able to extend that invitation to others, so God guided me down the path to becoming a pastor. As I continued down the path, God provided people along the way to support, encourage, and challenge me. Each of you at Beulah has been used by God to teach me what it means to be a pastor and prepare me for ordination.

During the ordination service, the bishop will lay hands on my head and pray that the Holy Spirit will be poured upon me as I serve Christ’s holy church. Thank goodness, as I will surely (continue to) need the Holy Spirit! Then the bishop will lay hands on my hands and say, “James David Taylor III, take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, to administer the Holy Sacraments and to order the life of the Church, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

As powerful and moving as I know the service will be, something about that “take authority” phrase leaves me unsettled. In my nearly two years as pastor at Beulah, I’ve said to myself and others countless times, “If I were the benevolent dictator at Beulah, I would do ______, but I’m not!” On some levels, I think this is a good impulse. I don’t want to misuse the trust I’m given and (hopefully) earn as a pastor. On the other hand, I find my concerns prevent me from fully embracing the power of the Holy Spirit. I begin to say to God, “OK, I’ll do this and go there for you but I’m not so sure about doing that and going there.” Perhaps you’ve felt this in your own life? For if we’re not too careful, we might become so hesitant that we begin to live a life of fear and timidity instead of a life in the Holy Spirit’s bold, loving power.

While the bishop’s hands laying on me will be a moment I’ll never forget, I know that God laid hands on plans for my life long before June 5, 2022 roundabouts 7 pm in the Florence Center in Florence, SC. And while I may hold the title of “pastor” now, we all hold the title of minister, meaning servant. As a friend once said, the question for us all is not, “Will I be in ministry?” but “What ministry will it be for me?” 

So, how will you be a minister of the good news of Jesus Christ? You and I have been empowered by the Holy Spirit. You and I have been given authority by God to tell people the unbelievably good news of God’s love. You and I have been given invitations to the greatest feast of all time. You and I get to tell everybody they’re invited too. So fellow ministers authorized, justified, sanctified and satisfied by God, may God use each of our unique and wonderful gifts for the transformation of the world!

For those who would like to participate in the ordination service online, go to www.umcsc.org