Installation Sermon for Krista Vingelis

Inspired by Luke 5:1-11

So I get this phone call a few months ago, it’s Bishop Mark. He says, I’ve got a pastor how is interviewing in your conference and she needs a place to give her call sermon, can she come to Lord of Life? I said, sure! When will she be here? Yeah, that works for me. So, where is she coming from? New York. New York? Where from upstate New York is she coming from? No, no, New York City! I said, you did tell her about the central valley right? I mean, talk about culture shock!

 I did my internship in Birmingham Alabama so I know a little about culture shock and didn’t want her to be scared away by it! He says, yeah, yeah, she knows all about it and she is coming to interview! I had immediate respect for her that day, without even meeting her yet. I have met so many seminarians and pastors who have a very clear idea of the context and setting that they want to serve, and therefore, are closed to many opportunities. Not so with Pastor Krista.

Fast forward a few months, and I get another phone call. This time it’s Pastor Krista asking me to preach at her installation. I waited a day or two to respond to her voicemail; partly because I had to see if I actually had the time to write a sermon, and, if I’m honest, partly because of my natural human tendency to avoid commitment. However, during that day or two, another natural instinct kicked in, and that is the preacher, proclaimer, and overall lover of scripture in me. And so my mind went racing with all the possibilities of an installation sermon.

Passages that have been important to me over my lifetime came flooding into my brain, until I chose one and then all the sermon ideas started flooding in. So I call her and she says, so I have the texts picked out already, and of course they are not the ones that I had been thinking about. So I told her that I too already had the texts picked out! And we had a good laugh and of course she was gracious to allow me to use mine if I wanted to but I chose not to. I chose not to because I really like the way that it pushed me to take some of myself out of this sermon. Because after all, today is about Pastor Krista and Trinity. So let’s dig in to this gospel text.

This is one of my favorite gospel stories. There is so much rich imagery here to choose from, so many lines to pick out and pull apart. One thing that strikes me though is that this text will be heard differently by Pastor Krista and by Trinity. But before I address you two, something that I think we can all appreciate from this passage are the words “Do not be afraid.” New beginnings are scary right? No matter what kind you’re talking about: calling a pastor, accepting that call, making new friends, trying a new ministry project, the first day of school, it’s scary business! Why? Well, I think because there is so much of the unknown in a new beginning.

Let’s be honest here. Pastor Krista may look good on paper, and she may give a good interview, and she may be a good preacher, but that’s about all you knew when you called her. The rest was all on faith that his was the right person. For all you knew she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Don’t give me that look, you know some of you thought that! It’s a natural fear of the unknown! And it works both ways. And the sooner we can admit those fears the sooner that we can hear with our heart’s ears, the words “Do not be afraid.”

So here is the question Trinity, who is going to tell you, do not be afraid? Here is the question Pastor Krista, who is going to tell you, do not be afraid? The reality of ministry, the reality of life, is that you both are going to need someone to say those words to you because at some point things are going to get real scary. And my hope is that you will be able to hear those words with your heart and with all the grace and mercy that is packed in them. But that still leaves the question, who is going to be there Trinity, who is going to be there Pastor Krista, to say do not be afraid? Well, if you haven’t guessed by now, my hope for you both is that you will be there for each other, to say that, whether it’s with words or actions.

Some of you might be thinking, what could be so scary? I mean look at her, she doesn’t look very scary! Well, let me warn you right now Trinity…some day in the future, who knows when it will be, this pastor is going to ask you to set sail and cast your nets one more time. In other words, she is going to ask you to do something, consider something, start something, whatever it is, and you’re going to ask, “You want us to do what?” You want us to try what again? And some of you are going to respond with, But we are tired pastor. We’ve worked hard “all night” and we are already battling fatigue and you want us to do that? This call process has been long and tiring, and I thought we could put our feet up for a bit pastor.

And some of you are going to respond with, we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work, in spite of the fact that it may have been 5, 10 or 50 years ago and this is different world now, and this is a different pastor, and this is even a different Trinity now. And some of you might respond with, pastor, we’ve never done that before. And some of you will respond with, ok pastor, if you say so we’ll try it. But however you respond my prayer for you is that you hear, with your heart’s ear, when Pastor Krista tells you in words or actions, do not be afraid, I am in this with you, I have fears too, I have vulnerabilities too, I have weaknesses too, but I am in this with you.

Now, lest you get a Jesus complex Pastor Krista, let me offer a word of warning about Trinity! They too will come to you, some day in the future, who knows when, and Trinity is going to come to you with an idea that’s going to make you do a double take and say, you want me to do what? You want me to try what kind of ministry? And you will be the one that is tired, you will be the one holding these worn nets that can’t hold much more before they break. And my prayer for you is that you will hear Trinity say to you, in words or actions, do not be afraid, we are in this with you. We have fears and vulnerabilities, and weaknesses too but we are in this with you and we are here to help.

When you both can do this for each other, when you can both say those words of grace, do not be afraid, in words and actions, and receive those words of grace from each other, amazing things are going to happen, amazing things. You may even catch a few people along the way. Thanks be to God. Amen.