In Touch September 30, 2010
Posted on September 30, 2011 by under Touché,

This Odd and Wondrous Calling

Twenty-five years ago “Smokey” Joe Holbrook stumbled up the steps to the pulpit in the Middlebush Reformed Church.  The stated clerk of classis, my friend Paul Walther, jumped up to give my grandpa a hand as he ascended the pulpit, but my grandfather refused and as he straightened his bent body he seemed to receive a power that I knew not of, and, as if plugged into that pulpit, he was energized to give his charge.  It was the day of my ordination, World Communion Sunday, the first Sunday of October 1986.  My father, Joe Jr., had preached the sermon.  He told a parable of the church as a life-saving station that had forgotten about the life- saving business.  My grandfather was to deliver “The Charge to the Minister.”  In his younger days he was called “Smokey” because as a student preacher at a little church in Columbus, New Jersey, he was responsible for stoking the coal furnace before he would preach the Sunday message.  Sometimes the mix of fire and oxygen was not right and the parishioners would be coughing because of the mixed calling of sexton and preacher.  In later life most would have called him “Smokey” because he was waiting for fire from heaven to come and consume this planet and  set off the flame of the second coming.

I remember his charge, a three point charge to his grandson:  “Remember Taylor, to always preach, pray and play.”  It surprised me to hear my serious grandpa give me a public call to play.  He was 86 at that point.  He had some good times in ministry and some bad times in ministry, and with all that experience I guessed he had the right to tell a young preacher to play.

I will celebrate my twenty-fifth year of ordination by heeding my grandpa’s advice.  This weekend I will be with more than twenty guys from our church at the Northeast Men’s retreat at Lake Champion.  Returning from the weekend I will meet up with six pastors who are part of my “network” to head to the Adirondacks and join with a spiritual guide to spend three days in the wilderness. I think grandpa would be proud.  He taught me to fish on Whitaker Lake in Speculator, a few miles from where our hike will start.  It will be a fitting celebration because this weekend encapsulates two of the most fulfilling aspects of ministry for me: ing with men through the stages of life, and sharing with colleagues in this odd and wondrous calling.

I am reading a book titled This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.  This morning I read the chapter written by Martin Copenhaver, who talked about his ordination in the chapter “Laying on of hands.”  It took me back to that moment on this weekend twenty five years ago.  Joe and Joe Jr. have joined that cloud of witnesses that surround us, but as I celebrate this week with counsel my grandpa gave me, I continue to run with perseverance the race that is set before me looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  I hope that I preach, pray and play well for many more years.                                 Taylor