What follows is the introduction given me by the chair of the Elder board of Ebenezer LBC on July 15, 2007. It was especially meaningful to me.
Good morning : )
This is a special day!
The author of Hebrews begins chapter 11, often called the faith chapter, by saying, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” And then he goes on to explain that by ‘ancients’ he means all of the Old Testament characters – Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, even Rahab a prostitute who saved the spies on entry to the promised land, and many others the author says too numerous to mention.
I believe this chapter of Hebrews describes people on faith journeys. And I believe faith journeys have very specific patterns – they are distinct from any other journey we can take as humans. A faith journey is:
• … primarily about being obedient to a call from God
• Involves a very significant gospel challenge – where often much is unknown, in terms of the specifics of how the journey will unfold
• Is accomplished by watching God – – not ourselves, or even the path ahead
• And a faith journey always requires endless grace, patience, persistence, creativity
Ebenezer is on a faith journey. God rooted us in South Mpls over 100 years ago so that, now, in this age, we just might reach an ever-changing and needy community. The elder board believes that reaching this community for Jesus Christ is God’s call – God’s special challenge and assignment to us as a congregation – this is our faith journey, with all the same characteristics of the faith journeys of the OT characters.
Todd, Anne, Kori and Caleb are also on a faith journey. Today we want to make each of you warmly welcome here with us. To say that it is an honor or exciting to welcome Todd to our pulpit this morning is really inadequate – it is truly an answer to our prayers – this is something only God could arrange. Kori and Caleb, are you proud of your Dad this morning? You should be! He’s doing God’s work.
God rooted Todd first in rural South Dakota and then later, when his parents were called to be missionaries in Africa, in Fergus Falls and Edmonton, Canada. God grew a missionary heart in Todd through extended visits with his parents in Africa and through those influences called him to attend seminary. While Todd’s intent was to go to Africa, God reshaped his call to bring the Gospel to those around him, those in American cities. Todd served 9 years at Rancho Cucamonga, CA in suburban LA – 2 years as youth pastor and 7 as senior pastor. Since 2002, Todd has served in the Office of the President at our Synod Headquarters in Fergus Falls.
Todd is an entrepreneur, a leader, a musician, a preacher, and most notably a learner. For the past two years Todd has been working on a Doctorate degree at Luther Seminary with Craig VanGelder, who has worked with us over the years.
Mostly importantly, Todd is a husband and father. It has been very clear to us through the interviewing and call process that Todd loves his family deeply and above all else that he is and does, he is their protector and provider.
Todd’s faith journey has given him a passion for urban ministry and has sharpened his gifts for ministry in exactly a setting such as ours. Today Ebenezer’s faith journey and Todd and Anne’s faith journey commingle.
The author of Hebrews ends chapter 11 by saying, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. (Meaning generations of faithful people, toil, obedience and persistence were needed to realize the promise), and then the author goes no to say, [yet] God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
This is our sincere prayer, Todd: that God would make us together, the Mathisons and Ebenezer, more perfect as we journey together!
Todd, we welcome you to the pulpit –