I remember it like it was yesterday; it was my ordination weekend, those of us being ordained that weekend were on our way to a church service for all of the clergy gathered for the weekend. We are on a bus, not too far from our destination when a call comes in for me on someone else’s phone.
It was my sister. She had made a promise to me that when I would be away from home she would make sure that there were no secrets and I would be kept in the loop with all the family news; and the news she had for me on this day was not good news at all.
She told me that my Gramps had taken a turn for the worse and he was not expected to make it through the night let alone the weekend. She assured me that there was nothing that could be done, and the family would still be joining me in Toronto for my ordination because that is what Gramps would want.
I could feel the grief rising into my throat, and as it did my mentor who was sitting in the seat in front of me noticed that the conversation was not the best and came and sat with me. When I told her what was wrong, she didn’t offer any magic words or solution, but just calmed my heart through the ministry of presence. In that moment, well and many others to be honest, my mentor was the presence of Jesus in my life giving me strength for the road the lay ahead.
Then as we went into the service and sat with my friends, I admit that I was understandably not as focused on anything that was going on, and I wept through some of the songs we were singing. I can’t remember a thing about the sermon that day, but what I do remember is the presence of another friend. She came to me after and told me that she thought the message was specifically for me and that my Gramps was not going to die that weekend; and he didn’t. But her conviction and words of assurance were the presence of Jesus I needed to get me through the weekend.
I flew back “home” on the Monday, wrapped up some loose ends and went up to say goodbye to my Gramps before I left on the journey to my new town and my new life. My Dad joined me for the 6 day drive, we made it to the first town before we received a text from my Mum some time in the middle of the night that told us to call when we could. I knew as soon as I read the text that he was gone, but called my Mum to confirm that Gramps had indeed died very early that morning.
“We know that you need to keep going, you can’t come back” that was what my Mum said to let me know that she was ok if I kept going on my journey. Yet I sat in my hotel room, I did not feel quite right about not turning back, but I was afraid to make the decision for fear of what the new people in my new town must be going to think. Well could you believe, that my mentor happened to pop on-line and I told her what had happened. She told me to go home, that my new charge and the people there would be waiting for me when I was finished grieving the loss of my Gramps and she was right, and at that time I needed the presence of God he was there.
The beginning of my ministry as an officer was filled with difficult days and God knew that I needed him to carry my through, as I doubted my ability to serve him through the difficult times that would come so he led me to those places where I could see his presence.
I believe that God is always with us, but I also believe we spend a lot of time looking for his presence in big and majestic ways. We look for our own transfiguration experience, but the reality is that he reveals it to us every day. Through a mentor, or a friend, or an accepting community who even though they don’t know you yet grieves with you. That very presence of God, gives us the strength that we need for the difficult journey of faith. Thank you Jesus!