March, 2012

On Ordination

The 1998 movie Armageddon is about a group of roughneck oil men who have been recruited by NASA to blast into space to drill into an asteroid and destroy it before it smashes into earth. As they are being strapped into the space shuttle, Owen Wilson’s character, Oscar Choi, says, “I got that ‘excited/scared’ feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or maybe it’s more – It could be 2% excited and 98% scared but that’s what makes this so intense.” I think I can relate to his confused emotions. As I look at the momentous event of my ordination and installation as the fifth Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian, I have to be honest and say I’ve got that ‘excited/scared’ feeling. I am also convinced that this is a good thing. I should be both excited and scared. I should be excited about what God has in store for us. And I should have a holy fear of the weight of this calling.

 

In the book of Leviticus we see the ordination of the Aaronic priests. The priests were mediators between God and his people. They were to teach God’s revelation and to facilitate the encounter between God and his people in worship. That Aaron would be allowed to fill this important office is speaks to the grace of our great God. Aaron had previously facilitated the sin of the people in Exodus 32. Moses confronts Aaron after the people had worshiped the golden calf, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” (Ex 32:21). Aaron responds by blaming the people and essentially saying, “It just sorta happened, I threw the gold in the fire and out came this calf” (v. 24). But God was gracious to Aaron. God did not give up on Aaron and now he and his sons are being ordained as priests. They are imperfect priests, yet they have been called to be set apart to serve the Lord. They will teach the people and they will facilitate the worship of God. We can take comfort in this. There is not a one of us who is qualified to serve God apart from His grace. Apart from God’s generous mercy, we are worthy recipients of His full and unmitigated wrath. But God being rich in mercy has lavished grace upon grace on us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Praise be to God. If you are looking for a perfect man to lead your church, I am not that man. I stand before you only because God’s greater grace has stood for my great sins.

 

Aaron and his sons were ordained through a ritual of ceremonial washings and sacrifices. After the ram of ordination was sacrificed, some of its blood was put on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. These body parts seem to be a part taken for the whole. By marking these parts it seems that the whole of the priests are marked by and identified with the sacrifice to God.1 Gary Demarest suggests in his commentary on Leviticus that these body parts correspond with the actions of the priest. The ear suggests listening to God. The thumb suggests working for God. The toe suggests walking with God.2 There is a sacred action to which the priests were called. They were to listen to God, work for God, and walk with God. This is a good yardstick for the Pastor and for all who are called by God to bear his name.

 

Theodore Roosevelt was asked in 1917 to write an inscription for the pocket New Testaments given to soldiers prior to their departure for WWI. In that inscription, Roosevelt quoted Micah 6:8 as a preface to the whole New Testament, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” I see a parallel with the marks of sacrificial blood given to the priests in ordination. God has told us, will we listen to Him? We are called to do justice, will we work for Him? We are instructed with walk with God, will we walk with Him?

 

When we look at ordination today, we do so by acknowledging the connection with the Old Testament priesthood but also by acknowledging the role of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. We no longer need a priest to stand in our place before God. Christ now stands in our place (Heb. 10:11-14). We, therefore, believe in a priesthood of all believers. But priesthood and ministry are not the same thing.3 God still gifts and calls men to be set apart to teach the people and to facilitate the encounter between God and his people in worship. There is a distinct ministry of Word and sacrament given to the Church. And it is to this office that I have been called by Covenant Presbyterian Church of Short Hills. It is to this office that I will be ordained. It is high calling. It is higher than anything I can humanly accomplish. I am called to keep watch over your soul as one who will have to give an account to God (Heb. 13:17). One cannot enter into such a ministry lightly. And yet I know God has equipped me and called me to this. Herman Bavinck wrote that “ordination is the solemn public declaration before God and his congregation that the person called has been sent by way of a lawful process and hence by God himself, that this person possesses the required gifts and as such ought to be received, recognized, and honored by the church in question.”4 I am thrilled and humbled to be called, ordained and installed as the fifth Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church of Short Hills. To God be the Glory!

1Bruce K. Waltke and Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Zondervan, 2007), 461.

2Gary W. Demarest, Leviticus (Communicator’s Commentary: Mastering the Old Testament) (W Publishing Group, 1993), 89.

3cf. Second Helvetic Confession, XVIII.10

4Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Baker Academic, 2008), 4.383.

Pastor Friederichsen Ordination Service

Donald L. Friederichsen of New Providence, New Jersey, will be ordained and installed as the fifth Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church of Millburn and Short Hills. The ordination and installation service will take place at the church on Sunday, March 25, at 5:00 pm.  Pastor Friederichsen will serve as the new Pastor of the church, following the retirement of the current Pastor, Dr. David Miner of West Orange, New Jersey, who has faithfully served the church as Pastor for the past twenty years.  Pastor Friederichsen is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando (MDiv, ’11) and of The University of Tennessee (B.A., ’99).  His wife, Kim, and three children will be in attendance at the ceremony.

Covenant Presbyterian Church of Millburn and Short Hills is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. Covenant Presbyterian meets in the historic White Oak Ridge Chapel on Parsonage Hill Road. The Church invites the community to the ordination service and to meet the new Pastor at the reception immediately following.