Ordained to serve

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Gaither presses all to first declare love

by Christin Davis –

Major Stephen Smith, training principal at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) at Crestmont, commended the 16 cadets plus four auxiliary captains to Western Territorial Leaders Commissioners Philip and Pat Swyers at the Commissioning and Ordination service on Sunday morning, June 14.

The group, nine of whom are first-generation Salvationists, stood to recite the 11 Army doctrines. Swyers accepted the declarations of the cadets following an affirmation of faith, which included the question, “Do you regard it as your duty to bear this witness everywhere, to strive to lead all persons to their only Savior, and for his sake to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends?”

Individually, the cadets approached Swyers, who said with his hands placed on their shoulders, “I commission and ordain you as an officer in The Salvation Army with the rank of lieutenant.” He repeatedly instructed the cadets that they have a mission to proclaim the gospel and are to see him/herself as a servant of humanity. Commissioner Pat Swyers then read each cadet’s selected Scripture.

“At the beginning of these two years, I would say that my faith was strong, but it was shallow and superficial,” Lieutenant Sarah Smuda said in her testimony. “I was zealous but lacked depth. In training, God has showed me more of his beauty, capturing my imagination and simultaneously causing a sense of awe and reverence that has continually grasped my heart. This day marks a new beginning and a significant change in our ministry.”

Asserting love, responding with action
Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, national commander of The Salvation Army in America since May 2006, focused his sermon on John 21 and the story of Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him. Major Marcia Smith, director of campus services at CFOT, read the Scripture.

“Mornings like this place us before God and give rise to the question first asked by Jesus on the beach to a small group of witnesses—‘Do you love me?’” Gaither said. “Jesus has a way of probing, challenging and disrupting. Like he questioned Peter centuries ago, he is questioning me, and every person in this auditorium today.

“The goal of the believer is to love the Lord perfectly. When your wife asks, ‘Do you love me?’ It is a reminder that you cannot take love for granted,” he said.

“On the shore of Galilee, Jesus fed Peter physically before dealing with his spiritual betrayal just days earlier. He was ready to lavish love upon Peter even though he had denied Jesus,” Gaither said. “You cannot really serve until you first declare your love.”

Gaither told the crowd that Peter gave up what he was called to do and took a few others with him.

“Don’t live in isolation as a witness for Christ,” he said. “No wonder people are discouraged today; we live in an environment in which life questions our beliefs, but giving up bears eternal consequences.”

Gaither said Peter became frustrated as Jesus kept asking the same question. He referred to scholars who translate Peter’s cautious response as, “Yes, I’m fond of you.”

“Try using that one on your wife,” Gaither said with a laugh.

“The question is not about our corps or our Army, it is only about us as individuals—do you love him?” Gaither asked. “With every ‘yes’ Peter is given something to do. If we love him we are expected to act—to live for him and follow him.

“If ever in the world, particularly in America, we would need witnesses for Christ, it is today,” he said.

Future takes the stage
During a time for response, Majors John and Pamilla Brackenbury invited to the stage the 37 accepted candidates for officership to date. They then asked for anyone else who feels called to serve Christ in the Army to join the candidates. Sixty-five individuals responded.

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