On Sunday the new pastor will be vested with a red stole. Her stole was handmade by her grandmother, for her grandfather, in 1961 and was worn by him at his ordination 50 years ago. Her grandmother, my mother, and I recently reflected on the creation of that stole. When my dad was ordained, I was 5 years old and my sister was 2-1/2. I asked Mom if she ever imagined, while she was embroidering that stole, that one day a child or grandchild would wear it. She reminded me that you can't even imagine grandchildren when your children are that young. And besides, she only had girl children then, and more than 10 years would pass before someone would ordain the first "lady pastor".
The red stole has probably been worn the fewest times of all the stoles she made for my dad. It has such specialized uses: only two Sundays each year - Pentecost and Reformation, and at ordinations which happen at unpredictable intervals. Still, each time that red stole is donned, something new comes to the church: the Holy Spirit appears, the Wind of Change blows, a New Energy arrives.
When a pastor puts on her stole she dons a yoke of service. That service is rendered to God in the form of service to God's people. Jesus says his "yoke is easy and his burden light," and so I hope it is for my daughter. In Jesus' day, in the best circumstances, yokes were custom made for oxen which allowed them to work very hard with little pain. I have experienced working under yokes that didn't fit well, where I worked very hard and was rubbed raw in the process, but more often, I have had the pleasure of wearing an easy yoke, work that fit me like a glove and that called to me almost every day. This is what I think Jesus is promising: hard work rendered with joy, and this is the blessing I wish for my daughter as she begins this chapter of life.
With only a few days left before she is ordained, I give thanks for the faith and work of my father and my mother, for the joy of mothering this child and her sister, for the people of this church who helped to form her, and for the work that will be accomplished by this new pastor. A lot has happened since we gathered at the font for her baptism. This Sunday we welcome her into the Lord's family in a new way, with no less joy and hope than we had the first time.