Saturday, April 26, 2008


We are to be stewards, trustees, missionaries
cherishing that which we have,
responsible for their maintenance,
for spreading the word
of the richness
the blessing of grace,
of gifts all around
Each of us, has a role,
a part to play
in the church, living stones,
called to action
to be the hands of Christ,
the feet of the savior
the voice of the spirit now,
to be the Christ
in our part of the world,
our place in this age

April 26, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

In My Brother’s Eyes

I saw Christ, the love of the savior
in my brother’s eyes, sharing the supper
deeply moved, the intimacy of being the ones
to give the bread, to pass the cup
in this holy place, on this holy ground
living in community, as the eleven did
focused on the reading, the fellowship
the study and discussion of the word
finding our God anew in this circle
this collection of brothers brought together
for this purpose, by God’s guiding hand
Seeing my savior in his eyes
as he thanked me
looking me in the eye
for letting him wash my feet
sharing Holy Communion with him
serving him this time

April 26, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lifting Her Up

These few days, days apart
while she is on this journey
this road I have walked
praying constantly,
my mind racing ahead
remembering the jewels,
the nuggets, the moments of grace
my cup running over
How I pray for the same joy
the same sense of wonder
of feeling his presence
washing over her
Lifting her up,
in this season of sudden change
understanding the immediacy of Mark
perhaps for the first time
Praying for that same certainty
for her, as she starts a new chapter
a new story of a faithful disciple
answering the master’s call
Here I am, send me
Lifting her up, in prayers
for your love to rain upon her
to see you walking beside her

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

We Said a Prayer

The three of us,
laying on the floor,
hands clasped together
joining others in prayer
praying for the women
on the journey, on the walk
Praying for them, by name,
each one of them, pilgrims, disciples
sisters in faith, in community
We prayed for them, for their families,
for their churches. For this time together,
for the rest of their journey
For them, for them all, we said a prayer.

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus
prayer by Shyanne, Shanequa and me
April 25, 2008 22:00

How was Your Hike

It must have been quite a hike,
in April, late winter this year
or so the question went
for some who went on the Walk to Emmaus
Not understanding this was no ordinary walk,
a crawl really, if the truth be known,
a leisurely sojourn with old friends,
well true brothers at least,
most we have just met
a purposeful walk with our savior
taking our time, to get the most
to drink deeply of this living water
not strapping on new hiking boots
up into the New England woods.
No, we slipped on the sandals of the disciples,
walking the dusty road with the savior,
some for the first time

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

How Will She be Different

I wonder, just what this will mean
to her, to her walk with Christ
to her sense of her call, her purpose
her part to play in the work of the carpenter
the shepherd, the priesthood
How she will react
to the words of this weekend
the special moments,
the presence of the Lord
in this community
this journey of faith
this weekend set apart
spending hours, days
with the risen savior

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus
Ruth’s turn

Staring at the Cross

in the stillness of the sanctuary
my head bowed in prayer, but still
I could see your cross,
beams of light shining on the wood,
radiating outward into the world
a beacon of love, your sacrifice
Staring at your cross
bringing myself to that day at Golgotha
to that first Good Friday
thinking of the crowd, the jeers,
the betrayal, the abandonment
my abandonment of you,
for all those years.
Staring at the cross
through tear-filled eyes
my heart burning within me
Feeling your spirit warming me
Staring silently at your cross

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

Passing the Cup

Like the towel, the basin
the foot washing
We shared the bread, the wine,
intimate sharing, disciple to disciple
intoning the words of our faith
sharing in remembrance,
his sacrifice, his changing the Passover
into Holy Communion
More personal, more direct
in passing the plate, the cup
in sharing the bread, the wine
with my brothers,
in this holy place
made so by our presence
the presence of Christ
with us, as he promised
for we were gathered
in his name alone

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus


Complete silence, quiet in the sanctuary
lights dimmed and heart rates slowed
heads bowed in silent, singular, personal prayer
hushed words on repentance, of fears, of hopes
shared directly with God
living in the community of faith
safe to be vulnerable, to be open
to the call of God in that stillness,
to answer the calling of the creator,
of the savior in the quiet, the solemnity
the sanctuary alive with the spirit
moving within us, speaking to us now

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus


Brutal honesty, to ourselves mainly
opening wounds, covered, buried
exposing them to the light, to his grace
to put them behind us,
to lay down those burdens
some carried for year on year
Laying them at the foot of the cross
Rising again in fellowship, in the sharing
the eating of the bread, dipping in the cup
Exposed wounds healing in this very moment
lighter steps out of the service than entering
A moment of redeeming grace
acted out in community
a special gift of this day
on this wonderful journey together.

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

Washing Feet

In the chapel, the community came together
the disciples, all of us disciples
slowing down, after the rush to arrive
But we stopped, to follow Christ’s example
to be servants to one another,
to wash our neighbor’s feet
Around the circle the basin, the towel went
each of us in turn, being the servant
being the one being served
Joining together,
none better than the master
who bowed before the disciples
a towel around his waist
setting our example
washing their feet

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus
John 13:1-17

A Skim of Yellow

Yellow dust, a patina of pollen
covering the cars below the ancient oak
planted long before the city grew,
the alley was cut
between the tenements
a shower of canary, of amber, of gold
shades of color falling onto the metallic
artificial colors of Detroit
a skim of yellow
a bit of nature obscuring
the lines of the cars below

April 25, 2008

Daily Grace of God

We are blessed,
by the daily grace of God
little moments of wonder, of joy
means of grace abound, surround us
enliven our days with amazement
with beauty, subtle and grand
with moments that take our breath away
such is the daily grace of God
if we but see

April 25, 2008

Friends I’ll Never Know

A wide open world, the ether,
the web, the connectedness
the world so small,
touching so many lives
friends I will never know
finding me in the language
of the internet, discovering
perhaps a jewel for their eye,
their mind, hopefully, blessed
in the words I
have been called to write
to post to the world,
published in bits and bytes
sent out to points unknown
to eyes I will never see
to friends I will never know

April 25, 2008

Shanequa's Indian

2,500 poems

There are now over 2,500 original poems on the blog.

Claimed by God - 2

We are his,
his sheep in his pasture
the green pastures
in which he calls us to dwell
We are the words of his hands,
the living clay of the potter
molded by him in his image,
known by him
Sing praises, joyfully
all the earth
For the Lord is good

April 25, 2008
Psalm 100
Psalm 23

Count our Days

Lord, teach us your ways,
to count our days
We are fleeting, like a blade of grass
but we have days to live
to truly live in you
in the sun of good days
the darkness of other days
Each given by you to use
for your glory

April 25, 2008
Psalm 90

The Eternity of God

Before the beginning,
before the world, the land,
the void ordered,
you were there, our refuge
our creator,
in your creation
we are but grass
be compassionate Lord
on your failing servants
let our days be filled with you

April 25, 2008
Psalm 90

Like a Sigh

Our days, ending like a sigh
in an instance, this life ends
suddenly, without warning
the last breath scripted by another
nothing of our comprehension
the creator alone knows
the numbered days of our lives
Build up bodies that last,
like God eternal
salvation by grace
respond in kind

April 25, 2008
Psalm 90

The Evanescence of Grass

Our lives fleeting, illusory
like the days of a blade of grass
needing water, needing light
withering in time, fading away
we are as grass
God is eternal

April 25, 2008
Psalm 90

When is Love Charity

A richer meaning of the love chapter,
or so it is called, the meaning of love
revealed perhaps a little more clearly
when the translation isn’t love at all
When the words of scripture,
the counterpoint to faith, to power,
is charity, giving of ourselves to others
being present to be empathetic, compassionate
to see the needs of others, to act on them
to show love through charity, more humble,
more giving, more of the building up of the body
bringing others into community
through acts of charity

April 25, 2008
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13:2
the difference in one word,
love or charity
between the King James Version
and the New Revised Standard Version
of the bible; what a difference

Move or Remove

The power to move mountains
or the power to remove mountains
such is the power compared
juxtaposed with love, with charity
totally different images,
thoughts in one’s mind
moving mountains,
that faith of the mustard seed
but faith to remove them all together
to strike them from the scene
the counterpoint of love or of charity to
more than nuance of language
deeper clefts between the translations
a richness of meaning pouring out
of real understanding in these words
clearer sense of the divine
of our call from God
in the different words
of the same scripture

April 25, 2008
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13:2
the difference in one word,
remove or move and
the companion word love or charity
between the King James Version
and the New Revised Standard Version
of the bible; what a difference

Leaving the World Behind

Off the grid, no watch, no phone
leaving the world behind
entering this holy ground
a cloistered space, community
fellowship of believers
walking, a people apart,
journeying with the risen Christ
spending time in his good news
cutting through the clutter
the noise of everyday life
to the truths hidden beneath
the love, the grace of God
all around us each day

April 24, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

Faithful Prayers

Around the clock,
coming together around the community
faithful prayers, lifting up the pilgrims, the team
prayers for their being set apart, being open
being part of the process, the work of weekend
the word revealed, the Christ represented
in this community of faith
Praying for them all, by name,
that they would see Christ, walk with Him
feel Him beside them, with them
around the clock
Praying without ceasing,
for them all

April 25, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Letters of Love

Letters of love, on their way,
written for you, for your strength,
for your faithfulness, your commitment to the call
the call God have given you, challenged you
to fulfill your part, in the creator’s plan
Letter of love, written just so you will know
the love we feel from you,
the love we want to convey to you
sent to you, to read, to experience
on this special journey you are on

April 24, 2008
Walk to Emmaus,
the prayers for Ruth

Walking Home

The story doesn’t expressly say,
but they appeared to be walking home
despondent perhaps, sad certainly,
confused or so said by all that had taken place
and Mary’s testimony, of the empty tomb
Was this the Messiah, the risen savior,
the king who rode into the city on a donkey
with no army, no claim to the throne,
the seat David once sat upon
They were walking home
A stranger walked up beside them
joining them on their short journey
unaware of the things, but so knowledgeable
about the ancient texts, the law, the prophets
able to weave a story of the Messiah
with authority, with clarity
Coming close to home,
they urged him to stay with them longer
to join them in the warmth of home
In he went with them, accepting their offer
Blessing the meal, this honored guest
breaking the bread, sharing the cup
The savior revealed, and then gone

April 24, 2008
Luke 24:13-35
Walk to Emmaus

In the Jordan

The story began anew,
the steps of fulfillment
immediately revealed,
the ancient text alive
in the Jordan,
where he was baptized
An anointing by water,
by the spirit falling like a dove
upon him, in the storied river,
being washed by John,
anointed by the dove,
the voice from heaven
a son well blessed
starting his journey
in the Jordan

April 24, 2008
Mark 1:9-15

A Stranger No More

He walked beside us; but we didn’t know him
beside up on that road home
we didn’t recognize him, not while he spoke
not while we talked on the road
He was a stranger no more
in the blessing, in the breaking of the bread
in the sharing of the wine, that meal made holy
with our risen Lord, in communion
He was made known to us
in the act of sacrifice
remembered each time
we share his meal

April 24, 2008
Luke 24:13-35
Walk to Emmaus

More Mary than Martha

Oh she can do the whole housekeeping thing,
the cooking, the cleaning, the busy bustle of life
But she would happily sit at the Master’s feet
maybe bringing her husband, her children along
if there was room. She would sit and bask
in the singular opportunity at the Master’s feet
far more Mary than Martha and happier for it.

April 24, 2008

She Carried with Her

She carried with her
the affirmation of a congregation
the approval of a committee
an appointment to serve
and the prayers of a multitude,
family, friends,
members of the community,
the congregation, the fellowship
of those who know her best
All who love her
raising her up for these days
that she would be richly blessed
in this time with the Lord
on her Walk to Emmaus
steps on the path of her life
a pilgrim, a disciple,
a shepherd for the kingdom

April 24, 2008
Walk to Emmaus,
the prayers for Ruth

My Prayer for You on Your Journey

Oh I pray for you, that you would find Christ anew
that these days would be a rich blessing
that you would feel the presence of our creator,
our savior, the Holy Spirit sitting beside you
That still small voice speaking
from within your heart
that these moment would be etched,
carved in your memory
that the words of the savior, in clear language,
not hidden in lofty parables,
would speak directly to you
that your witness would be strengthened
and your joy more complete
Your sureness of your journey
the faith, your belief in the unseen
as it was for Abraham, our father
A new voice in your spirit,
new words to share with the congregation
Fed at the Master’s feet, as Mary was
this is my prayer for you
on this journey to Emmaus

April 24, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

Praying for Their Journey

Prayers rising up
to our Father’s ear in heaven
for their journey, their walk
That they would find our risen savior
on that old, ancient, dusty road,
on the road to Emmaus.
Pilgrims all are we,
walking with our brother
hearing his story once again
Praying they would find their way
lost or walking along
whichever they may be
That they would feel that warmness
that fire in their spirits
as they listen to the word
feel the love of our creator
commune with one another
in the church together

April 24, 2008
Walk to Emmaus

With Life Giving Water

The dry soil gave way
allowing the perennials
to push up to through
when life giving water
was added to the dry ground
The garden became green
in a matter of hours,
as the waters found the shoots
hidden under the dirt
rising into the air,
toward the light
with the blessing
of life giving waters

April 24, 2008

The Gardener

The loving hands of the gardener
adding water, sunshine, rich fertile soil
to nourish, nurture, grow the seeds
plants by his hands
giving the plants,
fruitless for a time
a chance to grow,
to mature in time
for a harvest to come

April 24, 2008
Genesis 1
Luke 13:6-9
Mark 4:1-20

With a Little Water

With a little water, the garden sprang to life
green shoots burst through the newly loosened soil
a little water and good soil, a wealth of sunshine
the garden grew.
So are we, in our dry places, ready to spring to life
with a little living water, the good soil of a willing heart
the light of God splashing down on us
Ready to grow in our faith, with the love of God
nurturing, enriching, wrapping around us
in this beautiful garden

April 24, 2008

In the Days of Darkness

Like the flash of light,
God was in the days of darkness,
the prayer and fasting in his cell in Damascus
God was there, in the heart of Saul
stilling the noise in his spirit
letting the words from heaven,
from the Messiah, sink into his soul
In those days of darkness
His sight forever changed
Ready now for the faithfulness
the hand of Ananias, to see

April 24, 2008
Acts 9:1-22 and
Upper Room daily devotional

In the Flash of Light

God was there,
in the brilliant flash of light
in the booming voice from on high
speaking to His tormented,
persecutor of His disciples
blinding the eyes
of he who could not see
who would not believe in Him
in the flash of light blinding him
for His purposes alone
Humbling him,
making him dependent
Opening his heart
to the truth of the Way

April 24, 2008
Acts 9:1-22 and
Upper Room daily devotional

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Kiss in the Sanctuary

The day was sealed with
a kiss in the sanctuary,
as if the pastor could have stopped us.
“You may kiss the bride” never more unnecessary
Eager to kiss, to get the celebration begun
Sealing the moment, the joy
fulfilling a promise before God
the love we share
by our kiss in the sanctuary

April 23, 2008
our wedding, April 23, 2005

A December Morning

Walking carefully onto the stone bridge
snow and ice on the path
We stood together in our finery
our three daughters with us
The words of love, of commitment
the words from Ruth, for Naomi, shared
Poinsettia and snowflakes,
a tie and a beautiful dress
two rings exchanged and
two hearts joined
that December morning
before the snow flurry confetti
and the champagne toast

April 23, 2008
our wedding, December 17, 2004

The Love Chapter

Speaking of love, special sacrificial love
charity, servanthood in our hearts
cherishing another, truly
Her voice rising, reading these holy words
words that bound the believers
Hearing these words from the lecturn
my love’s hand in mine
Deep meaning in sharing these words
in the sanctuary on our wedding day
a chapter of our lives unfolding still

April 23, 2008
1 Corinthians 13
our wedding, April 23, 2005

Junior Bridesmaid

A little older, a little more mature
not like her younger sisters that day
She was with mom,
up in the front of the sanctuary
standing with mom, on this special day
dressed and coiffed a bit more,
walking with her older cousin
part of this day, of renewal
of commitment before God
as she had been that December ‘morn
sharing with us our joy
our union as husband and wife
a family brought together by God

April 23, 2008
our wedding, April 23, 2005

Petals in Their Hands

Shyanne and Shanequa,
then still four and three
practiced scene stealers,
carrying adorned baskets
of the rose petals,
bouquets we had given to one another
Sprinkled, placed, covering
the center aisle, the Narthex
to the Chancel, the sanctuary blessed
petals, pieces of love
to mark this day

April 23, 2008
our wedding, April 23, 2005

Tropical Sunrise

There was something so very different
so far from my ken, my experience
sharing a tropical sunrise with her
with my beautiful wife, alone on the beach
Waking before the dawn, sitting together
watching the sliver of light rise
and consume the dark
warm breezes off the easterly shore, sunlight
wafting across us, moving inland
to wake the island

April 23, 2008
Our honeymoon week,
St. Lucia

Our Island

For a few days, wonderful days
this was our island, a refuge, a retreat
escape from the day to day, a warm, tropical
wondrous place, so different from home
Luxuriating in the hot, sun beating on our skin
the water slippery warm
smell of flowers, of the rainforest,
even the sulfur, unique in our history
Slowing down, strolling along,
even in the rain
this place, this special place
was our island

April 23, 2008
Our honeymoon week,
St. Lucia

Our Beach

The windward island, southern end, easterly beach
early in the morning, before the hotel stirred
pool chairs turned to the waking sky
holding each other’s hand
waiting together on our beach
for the sun to crest the horizon line
for the dark to give way to the light
still in our hearts together, seeing the dawn
alone together on our own private beach
wearing bathing suits in April
quite a difference for northerners like us
warm in the tropical breezes
sitting in the dawning sun
sipping a little coffee
given to us by the staff
catering to our needs
our need to be there,
in that moment

April 23, 2008
Our honeymoon week,
St. Lucia

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waiting for the Bride

She was a little late
for the service, for the wedding
lucky for me, we were already wed
This day for the church, before God, our family
But we were already husband and wife
living our life together already
father and mother for these
magical girls, treasures each day
She was late, and I was laughing
even as I paced the sanctuary, the Narthex,
the front steps of the church
Wondering where my bride could ever be
happy she was already my wife

April 22, 2008
About our wedding day, April 23, 2005,
when Ruth was late, because
the flowers were left at our house

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sermon by Pastor Ruth L. Foss, “Where Does The Story End?”, Sanbornville, United Methodist Church, Wakefield, NH, March 23, 2008, Easter Sunday

John 20: 1-18

It’s Easter Sunday!!! Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!). This is my most favorite day in the Christian Calendar. It is the day our Lord and Savior rose from the dead. . . conquering sin and death. . . so that we can have a right relationship with our God and King! I don’t know about you but I have asked Ray to tether me so that I don’t fly away! Our wait is finally over. . . the past three days are behind us. We can look forward to the kingdom of God. We can walk in the garden in the cool of the evening with our Creator again as was planned from the beginning. We can have that one on one relationship with God again. Ray and I have the same feeling about Easter Morning. . . he even wrote a poem about it. It is called “Bring on the Morning” and it reads:

Oh, bring on the morning!
so we can shed our ashes, our sackcloth
rise with the Christ, He Is Risen!
The grave empty, the Messiah lives
walking among the disciples, sharing his grace
a balm to their souls, the beginning of our future
a risen savior, at the right hand of the creator
our breach sealed and death defeated

Oh, bring on the morning!
our lives renewed, our grief, our shame
cast to the side, our Savior lives
the sin that caused his pain,
washed clean;
He is shimmering white
our eyes turn to the Master's voice
we are his sheep and he our shepherd

Oh bring on the morning!
the old is past and the new just begun
we are raised, we are risen
join the saints, the throng,
singing Hosanna,
all around the world
Christ the Lord is risen today
Oh, bring on the morning!

And what a morning it is because Christ is risen. . . He is risen indeed!

In the Scripture from the Gospel of John this morning. . . it tells us about that fateful morning when Mary went to the tomb. It talks about that first Easter morning. When I read this scripture. . . I saw two stories unfolding in it. One was the story of Mary and the other was the story of Peter and the beloved disciple (which some say was John). Both of the stories had powerful meaning for me and I thought I would share them with you this morning.

Let’s talk about the first story. . . the one of the two disciples Peter and the beloved disciple. Now after Mary went and told them that the stone had been removed. . . They both go running to the tomb. Peter went in first and then the other disciple went in. Peter saw the linen wrappings and such lying on the floor but when the beloved disciple saw these things. . . he. . . believed. They both did not quite understand yet that Jesus had to rise from the dead. . . but. . . even though they didn’t understand. . . the beloved one believed.

Now. . . Peter and the other disciple are given nothing but the evidence of an empty tomb. But still the beloved one believed. He had no angelic announcement that accompanied the glimpse into the empty tomb. . . no reassuring words that Jesus has risen, that he had gone before them. There was only the stark emptiness of the tomb and the tell tale presence of Jesus’ abandoned burial cloth; yet. . . the beloved believed.

You see. . . he believed because he already believed before the crucifixion. The beloved disciple believed in Jesus and the trustworthiness of His promises about Himself and about God. When he saw the empty tomb. . . he knew what that signaled: Jesus had conquered death. He didn’t need Grissom from CSI. . . he didn’t need the New York Times or the Daily Gazette. . . he didn’t need Geraldo to tell him what was going on. He knew what he knew and that was Jesus said it and it was so! Talk about “blind Faith” or should I say “true faith.” Even though he did not fully understand. . . he still believed because Jesus said it was so. . . to have a faith like that would be a wonderful thing. . . something I am sure we would all like to have.

The other story. . . the other scene. . . that I was aware of was the scene with Mary. She was all upset because she did not know where Jesus’ body was. She thought that someone had come and taken it away. When she had told the angels why she was so distraught it was not the angels that comforted her. It was Jesus Himself. She didn’t recognize Him at first. . . but. . . the moment of recognition was when she hears Jesus call her name. At this point she abandon’s her grief and turns to her teacher expectantly. It is the demonstration of the Truth of Jesus’ promise that He would see His followers again, that their grief in His absence would turn to joy, that He would not leave His followers orphaned. This scene captures all of the joy the church experiences when it exults on Easter Sunday Christ is Risen. . . He is Risen indeed! But. . . I also see something else in this scene. You see. . . Jesus tells her that she cannot touch Him because He still needs to ascend to the Father. Now. . . He could have just ascended and came back later as we all know He did. . . but. . . He makes this “pit stop”. . . to talk to Mary. . . to comfort her. . . while he was on His way up to the Father. Even from the grave Jesus still was showing His compassion on the down hearted.

Easter. . . the Cross. . . you know. . . there are many ways that people look at the cross. Some people look at the embodied cross. . . they feel that the most important day ever is the day that Jesus died on the cross. Others look to the empty cross and tomb. They look at the Risen Lord not the suffering savior. To me. . . without the empty cross and tomb. . . there is no completion to Jesus’ ministry here on earth. In order to conquer sin and death. . . He needed to rise on that fateful Sunday Morning. To me the most important day is Easter Sunday. This is what the poem that Ray wrote, “With out Easter” embodies. It reads:

The cross, the sacrifice, the suffering
taking on our sins, to reconcile us to the creator
that is the story, of Maundy Thursday,
of the good, Good Friday.
But without Easter, the story is incomplete
unfinished, good but not triumphant
the lamb a sacrifice, the humble servant;
but not the king, the lamb upon the throne
We need Easter, the risen Lord,
vanquishing death, the tomb
Rising from grave, walking once more
with the disciples, believers, the faithful
Walking on the Road to Emmaus,
communing with them in the Upper Room
assuaging their fear before his ascension
preparing them for the Pentecost
laying the way for our future
as they would spread his word
to the ends of the earth
a story, ultimately that would be
Nothing without Easter

But is that the end of the story? Is there more that we need to think about regarding this Resurrection morn?

The good news that Jesus commands Mary to proclaim is not that He is risen, but that he is “ascending to my Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” This is not meant to minimize the resurrection, but to note. . . for Johns Gospel. . . the appearances of the risen Jesus are neither counterpart to the cross or the climax of the story. The cross brings the incarnation to a close but the story of the “Logos”. . . the Word. . . the Plan. . . finds its conclusion only in Jesus’ return to God which is the counter part of the descent from heaven. This return makes new life possible for the believing community, because Jesus’ ascent to God renders permanent that which was revealed about God during the incarnation.

The love of God embodied in Jesus was not of temporary duration. . . lasting only as long as the incarnation. The truth of Jesus’ revelation of God receives its final seal in His return to God. Jesus announces His ascension to Mary by saying “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Jesus Himself translates what His ascension means “for us.” Through Jesus’ ascension, the believing community receives a new identity. His ascension is the conformation that the believing community now knows God as Jesus knows God, that Jesus has opened up the possibility of a new and full relationship with God. The intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with God is now the relationship of the believing community can have with God. In verse 16. . . Jesus demonstrates the power of intimacy of relationship with one of His own sheep and in verse 17. . . that power and intimacy is opened up for all believers. . . members of the community. His promises in the Farwell Discourse all pointed in the direction of this ascension announcement that the love that God and Jesus have for each other would be opened up by Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension to include the believing community.

It’s Easter Sunday. . . Christ has risen. . . He is risen indeed. Where does the story end? Is it at the cross. . . with the empty tomb. . . or at His ascension? I my eyes. . . the story goes on. Yes Jesus conquered sin and death for you and me. Yes He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. But His story lives on in you and in me. We are now that believing community that has had the bridge built for them. We are the ones who carry on with His ministry here on earth. Praise God for our Lord and Savior. . . the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Whom without His love and compassion we would still be estranged from the best Father we will ever have.


Sermon given by Pastor Ruth L. Foss, “Can I have A Do Over?”, Sanbornville United Methodist Church, Wakefield, NH, March 9, 2008

Ezekiel 37:1-14

How many of you ever wanted to have a do over? You realize that you could have done something a different way or acted a different way and just want to have a chance to start over again. I have many days like that. . . my family seems to know that when I say can we have a do over. . . I really mean business. . . things are going terribly wrong and I just want to start over again. . . even though I know that I can’t. . . it just feels good saying it. If we had a chance to do it over. . . I am sure that most of us would jump at the chance.

I know that I have asked for a do over with people, especially with my family and I get the do over. . . we try to start again, but. . . what has happened before that do over still looms in the air so is that really a do over? But. . . with God . . . we have a true do over. With God. . . we get true forgiveness with our do over. Hebrews 8:12 states that God “Will be merciful to their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more”. Our slate is wiped clean and we can begin anew. (We get. . . a do over)

When we come on bended knee and accept Christ as our Lord and Savior we get a do over. 2Corinthians 5:17 tells us “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” We are renewed, changed. The past is past. . . the slate is wiped clean. . . and BEHOLD. . . new things have come. I like the way that the Amplified Bible states this verse from Corinthians. It says that “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” Wow. . . now that makes me stop and think. We are “ingrafted” in Christ. . . we are a new creature altogether. . . our old “moral and spiritual condition is gone. . . A fresh, new start! (We get. . . a do over)

The Ezekiel passage from this morning also talks about renewal. . . a do over. The exiles are lamenting that their bones are dried up, their hopes perished and they are utterly cut off. Yahweh. . . instructs the prophet to inform his audience. . . the exiles. . . that their present situation and consequent despair will. . . be. . . transformed. The bones come together with sinews and flesh came upon it and it was cover with skin. But. . . there was no breath within them. God then tells Ezekiel to summon the breath. . . the spirit. . . from the four winds to breathe. . . blow. . . upon “these slain.”)Wind also means ruah (ruah Eloim~breath of God) and the four winds appear to be the powerful source of the ruah Ezekiel must summon.) Now as a consequence of this. . . of these procedures of the sinews, flesh, skin and the breath that God causes. . . the bones will live; more importantly, the Lords larger purpose will be accomplished: the revived people will know and acknowledge who Yahweh is. They will know the power of God!

When we raise our vision to look beyond what our mundane. . . ordinary. . . eyes can see, we watch the impossible happen through God’s eyes. “I can’t believe my eyes,” we say when we have witnessed an utterly unanticipated and/or seemingly impossible event take place. But we can believe God’s eyes and, seeing through them, glimpse unimagined reasons to keep on hoping, though the desert can be dry and dark, and the Promised Land far, far away. (We get. . . a. . . do over)

Ezekiel also states in verse 14 that “I will put my Spirit in you. And you will live again. I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I have spoken. I have done it," announces the Lord.' "We are given the Spirit of God so that we can live again. I would like to read you a poem from my favorite poet. . . it is titled Wind in the Bones. I think it sums up this passage from Ezekiel well. It reads:

Not merely a breath,
the breath of life
whispered into the bones.
No, the wind, from the ends of the earth
called, commanded to the valley
to breath life into the dry bones
the winds of the dead, the exhaled
breath of life, reinvigorating,
awakening the nation
called to life by God,
through the prophet,
given life by the four winds

It is God’s breath, His wind. . . that gives new life.

The Romans passage tells us that “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” We are made alive again even though we were dead because of sin. (We get. . . a. . . do over)

In the John Gospel from this morning. . . Jesus talks about a new life. In verses 25-26 Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” We have eternal life through our belief in Jesus Christ. AMEN! Jesus also gave Lazarus new life in this passage to God’s Glorification. Our new life is to Glorify God.

I have had time to contemplate on this “new life” thing. . . this concept. This is the analogy that was brought to mind. We are like a caterpillar crawling around looking for something to eat (we are in our sinful nature looking for something that will sustain us). . . when the caterpillar finds the right thing for it to eat they stay and eat and grow (we finally come to the throne of Grace and realize that Jesus is the only thing that will satisfy us. We stay and we learn and feed our souls).When it is time they cocoon themselves (we rest in the presence of God. . . enveloped in his wings of love and redemption. We are sheltered by the Most High). When it is time the caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis and has been transformed into a beautiful Butterfly (we are transformed and are given wings to soar on high. . . transformed into a thing of beauty with God’s love shining through us). (We get. . . our. . . do over)

The way to experience God’s love for the world that defeats death, to receive the promises of God as the reality of God, is to believe in Jesus. We get a do over. We are able to have a right relationship with God. After the first Adam. . . the only way to try and have that relationship with God was through animal sacrifices. But with the 2nd Adam, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he became that ultimate sacrifice. . . the final sacrifice for the remission of sin. Adam was made by the Divine and it took the Divine to save us from his sin. The divine created the 1st Adam and had to become the 2nd in order to correct the mistake of the first. The Divine sacrifice found in our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.


Sermon given by Pastor Ruth L. Foss, “Was Blind But Now I See”, Sanbornville United Methodist Church, April 6, 2008

Luke 24: 13-35

Have you ever passed by something a hundred times and all of the sudden it looks different to you? Has anyone ever said to you “hey. . . look at that design in that rock”. . . you keep looking at it and don’t see anything and then all of the sudden. . . you look at it from. . . a different angle and see exactly what they are talking about? I know I have. There is this figure of a fish that it is the side of this rock formation when you get on to rte 93 from my house. I think I have talked to people about it many times and it takes some of them a while but. . . eventually they see it. We never know what we are missing sometimes because we. . . kind of have these. . . blinders on.

This kind of reminds me of these two men walking the road to Emmaus. They were so consumed with what had happened in the past that they were missing the glorious thing that was happening in their present time. The “RISEN” Lord Jesus Christ was walking along with them. They even had a burning feeling in their heart that they ignored because they were focused on what had taken place in the days before. I wonder how many times “WE” miss our Lord walking with us because we are too concerned with what is going on or has gone on in our life instead of the blessings we receive abundantly each day.

This story of the appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is the most developed and the most beautiful of the appearance stories. Its plot is centered on the failure of the two men to recognize their fellow traveler. The suspense builds in the story until the moment that they recognize the risen Lord and He disappears. . . vanishes. . . from their presence.

Emmaus. . . it was a little-noted town. Luke doesn’t say why the two disciples were going there. They may have been going home. . . going there on business. . . or just going there to get away from the terrible things they had witnessed in Jerusalem. The risen Lord meets us on our road to Emmaus, in the ordinary places and experiences of our lives, and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us. The story warns us, however, that the Lord may come to us in unfamiliar guises, when we least expect him.

This reminds me of something that happened in my life years ago. It was when I was a “new believer”. . . just after I had rededicated my life to Christ. I was in the grocery store and I had one of those cubes that tells the story of Jesus’ life. I don’t know if you have ever seen one before. . . I wish I could find one, I lost mine a while back. . . they look like those Rubik Cubes that were so popular a few years back. Well. . . the High School kid that was bagging my groceries was really interested in it. He asked me about it and I told him that is was a cube and when you flip it around it told the story and went along my way. Well. . . I no sooner got to my car and felt like I had missed divine appointment. I went back to find him and show him how it worked and tell him the story but I couldn’t find him. . . I swore that I would never pass up a chance to witness ever again. Was this High School kid the risen Lord standing before me and I didn’t realize until too late. . . I guess I will never know. But. . . that lesson has stayed with me for many years.

One thing I find interesting about his passage is that as soon as they recognized the risen Lord. . . He disappeared from their sight. God’s presence is always elusive, fleeting, dancing at the edge of our awareness and perception. Now let’s be honest. Do you really feel a constant, steady, predictable presence of God? If you do I envy you (oops sorry. . . that’s one of the Big Ten). I know that there are times in my life when I am praying “Lord I feel alone and confused. . . I need you to be here with me right now”. . . and there is silence. . . but in those silent times. . . in those times that I am walking through that desert place. . . I know that God is watching me and that there is a lesson to be learned. I know that He will pick me up if I fall. . . brush me off. . . and say “Let’s try that again. . . this time my way”. But there is this. . . silence. Maybe. . . this silence is a good thing. If we all felt the presence of God with us at all times. . . we may take for granted that God is always with us. We may not have the joy we feel when we feel God’s presence because it would be too common place for us. I have learned through my life with God. . . to treasure every moment that I feel his presence. I even have learned to look for Him in my day to day dealings. I even think back on the moments when I felt God’s presence when I am going through that dry arid desert and remember how it was. Even the two disciples looked back and remembered. After the Lord vanished they said to one another “Did not our hearts burn within us?” Even the women at the tomb (with the angels prompting) remembered the words that Jesus had told them while He was still with them. They remembered back to a time when the Lord was with them. One of the secrets of a vigorous spirituality and a confident faith is learning the importance of meeting God in the past as well as the present. You need to remember.

Memory. . . we all have it (OK. . . so some are better than others but we all have one). In the Scripture from Acts this morning. . . while Peter was preaching to the people he sparked their memory. Peter reminded them of all the good Jesus did. . . of how Jesus performed miracles and wonders which God did through Him. He reminded the entire household of Israel that with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified. They remembered what had happened and realized what they had done. Their “blinders”. . . the scales. . . fell away from their eyes. The scripture went on to say “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers what should we do?”” They had been blinded of what had taken place but were reminded and they remembered Jesus and who He was. As a matter of fact. . . as we read. . . those who welcomed his. . . Peter’s. . . message were baptized, and that day three thousand persons were added. Talk about your altar call!

Memories. . . to remember something. . . sometimes it is good to remember things while other times it may be painful. Sometimes our memories help us through what we are going through and other times they may cause us to fear. But. . . we can always find a lesson in our memories. For the two disciples and the people that Peter was preaching to. . . their memories helped remove the “scales from their eyes”. It is in our memories. . . when we meditate on what has happened. . . we can see the picture of life more clearly.

Easter was not over when the day was over. It stretches into the rest of our lives. The two disciples might not ever meet the stranger from on their trip to Emmaus again. But. . . that didn’t matter. Their life was changed. The Gospel story we read from Luke has a theological insight when it stretches Easter day into the series of experiences that happened after. The Lord is risen and He comes back to meet us on our road to Emmaus. Opening our eyes to see Christ in our midst is a challenging step on the Christian journey, but this is the step that leads two disciples to recognize the risen Christ. However, opening one's eyes is only a step; for after their experience, the disciples made known to all that had happened to them. We need to share our stories too.

When we read the bible. . . . There are times that our “heart is strangely warmed” (as John Wesley would say). Christ meets us there on our road to see more clearly and understand what God’s has to say about our lives. We recognize Him when we celebrate communion in the “breaking of the bread.” We meet Him in our daily lives unaware, as did the two disciples, until it is too late at times. We need to remove our blinders. . . have the scales fall away. . . so that we can see Him more clearly in our daily lives. You never know. . . the next stranger we encounter may be our risen Lord in disguise. We may meet Him in an unfamiliar place or right in our own back yard.


Sermon given by Pastor Ruth L. Foss, “Get a Piece of the Rock”, Sanbornville UMC, April 20, 2008

1 Peter 2:2-10

How many of you remember that old Prudential Insurance commercial? There was this beautiful background scenery of mountains and the Rock of Gibraltar was right in the middle of it. You remember that Jingle that they had? “Get a piece of the rock” (sing). It was the best insurance. You could stand on this rock for all of your insurance protection needs. The scripture from 1 Peter this morning talks about another rock. . . a living rock. . . a cornerstone to Christians. That rock has a name and its name is Jesus. I don’t know about you. . . but this rock is the one I want to trust in times of trouble. When I need assurance in life. . . it is this stone that I turn to. . . not some insurance company that makes promises they would rather not keep.

This feeling of trust in my “foundation” is eloquently put in a poem from my favorite author, Ray Foss; it is called A Foundation of Love. It reads:

In the beginning
there was God's love
upon this strong foundation,
this rock, all else stands
God's love, His ever hopeful grace
we can depend on, we are assured.
God will open wide
Her arms of love, ready
to welcome us
when we return home.
Upon this strong foundation
we build our lives
of purpose, of service,
spreading the Creator's love
Building Your church

It is upon this Rock that I take refuge.

What is this Rock. . . this living stone. . . that Peter talks about? Well. . . let’s take a look at Peter’s letter to get a glimpse of his understanding of this Rock and Living Stone. How does this letter relate to us as Christians today? This is a Pastoral letter written by the apostle Peter to the exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. Scholars say that the letter was actually written by one of the disciples of Peter. They used Peters name because they wanted to establish the claim that its teaching reflects that of Peter. The letter addresses a critical situation. The people had become marginalized and abused since their conversion to Christ. The society they once belonged to now treats them as an unwelcome, even dangerous sectarian movement.

This reminds me of how we as Christians are unwelcomed and abused in many circumstances in this world. Some of our friends look at us differently after we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. They call us Jesus freaks, they are afraid to be “themselves” around us because they are afraid that we will “start preaching” to them. We are ridiculed and made fun of for our beliefs. The letter offers realistic encouragement and instructions to Christians attempting to live faithfully in such a situation.

The writer talks about Christ being like a stone, a foundation to build one’s life on. He calls Christ the living stone. Not cold and motionless like a rock but is the life giving quartz we need in life. As the scripture states “as you come”. . . it represents the circumstances under which believers are being built into a “spiritual house”. As the believer comes to Him. . . they are being built. . . being made into. . . the body of Christ. The passage shows the difference. . . the contrast. . . between mans thing of value and God’s thing of value.

++ Man rejected the stone as if it were dead and worthless
++ God has chosen this stone as living and valuable.

These Christians, like Christ and ourselves, are rejected by the world around them but they, and we, are elected. . . chosen. . . and are precious in God’s sight. Christ is the living stone and Christians are living stones as well, full of life and life giving.

Stones are built into houses, but houses are also temples, and in temples holy priest offer spiritual sacrifices. Spiritual sacrifices are surely a reference to the whole shape of the faithful life. . . the life of holiness. It underlines the close relationship between what God has done in Jesus Christ and what God is doing in these Christians and is still doing today through believers.

All Christians are living stones, built into the edifice. But the cornerstone is Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone because the whole building rests on Him. He is the cornerstone because the building takes its design from Him. Ergo. . . no Christ. . . no building. The chosen and precious turns the allusion in verse 4 into and explicit citation.

++ Christ is chosen - reminds us that the whole pattern of salvation is part of God’s electing plan from the beginning centering in Christ but including all believers.

++ Christ is precious - reminds us of the pervasive distinction between valuable and tawdry goods, the things of heaven and the things of this world.
God’s faithfulness requires responding faith. Those who have faith know that the stone is precious but those who do not have faith, the same stone is not a cornerstone. . . they reject the stone and lay it aside. . . as if it was worthless and it becomes a stumbling block in their lives.

You know. . . all this talk about rocks has gotten me thinking. This reminds me of the transforming work of God in our lives. You see. . . metamorphic rocks are rocks that have “morphed” into another kind of rock. These rocks were once igneous or sedimentary rocks. Now. . . how do sedimentary and igneous rocks change?

Well. . . the rocks are under tons and tons of pressure, which fosters heat buildup, and this causes them to change. If you examine metamorphic rock samples closely, you’ll discover how flattened some of the grains in the rock are. We as Christians. . . as living rocks. . . are put under pressure at times from the “outside.” We are in the process of being formed into. . . being morphed into. . . the likeness of Christ. We may feel the heat at times but it is in those times when we are being shaped into what God would have us be in Christ. . . not what the world would have us be without Christ. We are being built into God’s temple so that we may become ambassadors of Christ. It takes many shapes and sizes of rocks to build a house but they all fit exactly where the “plans” have put us and are all equally important to the whole building. We become a “new kind of rock.” God is continually at work in our midst and is ever building the character of the church and of the individuals who are followers of the Way.

The scripture from 1 Peter this morning reminds us of the difference between Christians and non-Christians is not that we see different things differently but that we see. . . we view. . . the same things differently. We both see Jesus Christ, the rock. But as Christians, the rock we see is the cornerstone, that living stone, of our lives as individuals and as a community. But. . . non-believers just simply reject the rock. The difference between the two views of the same scene is faith.

In this letter from Peter, they great story that feeds faith is absolutely public. It is a word that is declared aloud about the deeds seen clearly. The story of Jesus is not hidden. The language about Jesus is not esoteric, confined to insiders, like the secret languages of lodges or clubs. But when different people hear the very public story, each responds differently. Those who hear the story in faith praise God for God’s wonderful deeds while those who do not hear the story in faith laugh and stumble.

All Christians are called by God to a royal priesthood and all are called to offer sacrifices. Not the sacrifice on the alter (as they did long ago. . . that final sacrifice has already been made by Christ Jesus) but the sacrifice of faithful obedience and the life of love that goes with it. The sacrifice that Christians are called to live is a life without malice, guile, insincerity, envy or slander which 1 Peter 2:1 says we have to put off with our faith.

For believers, Christian identity is our identity. Christian community is our community, and Christian family our family. Especially in a time of ongoing racial tension, Christians (not Caucasians, African American, Hispanic, or Asian people) are a chosen race. For Christians that take 1 Peter seriously, the line on the application that asks for race ought to filled in: “Christian.”

I would like to end my sermon with another poem by my favorite poet. It is called Stones for the Kingdom, it really embodies what the body of Christ should be.

Each of us, irregular stones,
living stones, for the kingdom
each with a place, a part to play
to build up the foundations, the walls
the body of Christ, revealed, proclaimed
living in the church, in each of us together
quartz and sandstone, onyx and sapphire
clay and coal, diamonds and granite
Everyone has a niche, a spot
in the wall, the building
the living stones,
brothers and
sisters of
the cornerstone
our Lord Jesus,
the rock
on which we stand

May we always be that living stone for Christ’s Church, may we always know that we are precious and chosen in God’s eyes, and may we always do our part for the Kingdom of God here on earth. As Christians. . . our motto. . . our slogan. . . in life should not be “Get a Piece of the Rock” but “Become a Piece of the Rock.”


The Pastor’s (wife) Husband

Standing beside her,
before the congregation
feeling their love for her
washing over me, in reflection
hearing his voice saying it was unanimous
a living affirmation of her call
My joy made real, in their belief in her
something I have known for so long
She is called to your ministry
to be your shepherd, in community
bringing your love, for the rest of her life
Proud, I am, to be the Pastor’s (wife) husband.

April 21, 2008
Results of the Church Charge Conference,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH
40 to nothing, saying yes, Ruth is ready
called for ordained ministry

Words that Heal, that Challenge, that Guide

The words rolled off the page, off her tongue
oh so familiar joyous words
words of the scriptures, ancient and alive
for us in the congregation, words of assurance,
of God’s love, of God’s call,
of the challenge to be disciples
to be parts of the body, to live out our faith
in the community of believers
each a part of the creator’s plan
the hands, the feet, the parts of the body
ever bound in community
better together than apart

April 21, 2008
Words that Heal, that Challenge, that Guide
Acts 12:12-20 and sermon,
“Ever Bound in Community
by Caroline Wiggin,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH

All of my poems are copyrighted by Raymond A. Foss, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. All rights reserved. Contact me at Ray Foss for usage. See all 35,430+ of my poems at Poetry Where You Live.

The Parts of the Body

It doesn’t matter which part we are
what role we each play
in the body, the church
the living person of Christ
together doing the Master’s will
following the path we have embarked upon
as a community of faith,
not merely a collection of individuals
all parts of the one body
working together
for the creator’s glory
all are valued, all are needed

April 21, 2008
Acts 12:12-20 and sermon, “Ever Bound in Community
by Caroline Wiggin,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH

All Are Needed

We are the eyes, the nose, the fingers,
the body of the church,
the body of Christ
each church, in its place
a role to play, each one of us,
each in community, together able
together the church
the body of Christ alive in this time
doing the work of the kingdom
for the Father’s glory

April 21, 2008
Acts 12:12-20 and sermon, “Ever Bound in Community
by Caroline Wiggin,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH

All Parts

Without each other, parts
parts of a puzzle,
clear in completion only
each a member, valuable, needed
finding purpose in the word,
in the life of faith,
using our minds, our hands,
what we know, what we have learned
to build up the body, to be the parts
be the church, together

April 21, 2008
Acts 12:12-20 and sermon, “Ever Bound in Community
by Caroline Wiggin,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH

An Affirmation

Joy welled up, filled our cups to overflowing
a day long sought after,
Being affirmed by our family of faith
in the sanctuary, in community
feeling their love, their certainty
Hearing their support, their faith
in her call, to ministry, their belief
She is called by God to the pulpit,
to service, to care for a flock
to bring God’s message, as an elder
a shepherd for the savior
His messenger of love

April 21, 2008
Results of the Church Charge Conference,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH
40 to nothing, saying yes, Ruth is ready
called for ordained ministry

All of my poems are copyrighted by Raymond A. Foss, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. Contact me at Ray Foss for usage. See all 27,100+ of my poems at Poetry Where You Live.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Before the Congregation

Another hurdle, a step on the path
to ministry, to her calling
They met in the sanctuary, somber, orderly
But joy was in the offing, in the results
the vote of affirmation, unanimous
all the gathered community
affirming her call, now,
those who have known her
who know her heart, her faith
her trust in God
saying yes, she is ready
She can lead a flock
She is called to be a shepherd

April 20, 2008
Results of the Church Charge Conference,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH
40 to nothing, saying yes, Ruth is ready
called for ordained ministry