Doxology Reflections: Always Learning in Ministry

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Many pastors that I know wear a “ministry ring” on the right hand. I do. But mine came to me in a unique way and it has become something different than I expected…

The ring pictured here is my ministry ring. My wife made it for me during our first year of marriage. She made it to replace my wedding ring, which came off my finger in a winter glove and was seemingly lost forever. After all the thought that went into that original ring, with our family Bible verse reference (Hebrews 12.1-2) engraved outside, considering the promises that we had just made, she hated to see my left hand empty. I agreed, but I knew that ring was in the house somewhere. I knew it would show up somewhere someday.

In the interim, and unbeknownst to me, Carrie took a goodly amount of her old jewelry and had it melted down and reformed into a new ring for me. She wrapped it up and put it by the tree for a Christmas gift.  Then, just a couple days before Christmas—in a way that we said, “How did we miss that?”—my ring appeared by our bed’s support post. So—thrilled!—she wrapped it up and put it under the tree for Christmas. Thus, on Christmas day I received two very meaningful gifts: my prodigal wedding ring was returned to me and I got a new ring whose symbolism has also become very important over the years.

You will notice that the ring appears blank. Our intention, once the real wedding ring was found, was to make this my “ministry ring.” Once in the parish I would engrave the ring or place stones or something of the sort to celebrate and remind me of my gifts and responsibilities as a pastor.

I have always worn the ring since becoming a pastor, but somewhere along the way I decided not to engrave the face. I haven’t had to. If you look closely you will see that the face is scratched. The ring itself is a bit deformed compared to it’s original pattern. As I looked down at this ring in the midst of one of the prayer offices (brief times of public ordered prayer) during the Illinois Doxology program I was reminded of how much I have learned in ministry and how essential to the Office of the Holy Ministry that it is to continue learning. I was reminded as I looked at this increasingly marred and re-formed ring that it has  become a symbol of how marred I am and how The Lord is continually reforming me through prayer, meditation on the Word, and testing (Luther’s oratio, meditatio, tentatio faciunt theologum—“meditation, prayer and testing make a theologian.”).

So, today I’m thanking the Lord for the gift of my wife, Carrie, who sacrificed some earthly treasures years ago to give me something that has become deeply meaningful. I thank the Lord for giving me a wife willing to tell me, “I think you’re losing your way as a pastor,” the statement that led me to ask my congregation to apply for the Doxology program. Above all, I thank the Lord for the gift of repentance, of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like Him in His death, that I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.” (Phil 3.10-11)

Knowing Christ and the victory over sin and death gives a peace that surpasses understanding. Soli Deo Gloria

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