This photo hangs near my desk in my office at work. I have no idea who it is or when it was taken. The subject is a young priest and obviously from the style of photo and the frame it is quite old but that is all I know.
I found it in an old junk shop west of Columbia, SC. I asked about and nobody knew anything about it. That is when I decided I had to have it. A picture of the Unknown Priest.
Why does he intrigue me? Because his work is known to nobody but God. I am confident that through years of faithful service in a local parish that this priest created many spiritual offspring. He baptized, he married, he buried many a man, woman, and child. He preached sermons and taught Bible lessons. He visited hospitals and funeral homes. He sat up late with the hurting and got up early for time in prayer. People saw Christ through him and in seeing Christ they were drawn to the Gospel. In this way those men, women, and children were made the children of God. Some of them went on to enter into ministry themselves. Others just lived as Christians in their different stations in life. In doing so they drew others to the Gospel and those did the same thing and so on and so on and so on. Today there are untold numbers of Christians faithfully living for God because of this Unknown Priest – the faithful work of man whose name nobody knows.
Why is this important to me? It is a corrective – a reminder if you will – that in every duty station I ever serve in my name will be remembered for a few days after I leave and then forgotten. In the Army we work so hard for people to know our names and have them documented. Certificates, medals, plaques, annual reports, are all ways we try to prove we are somebody to anyone that will slow down a moment to listen. You can tell when a person has been in the Army for any significant length of time. He will need a larger office not for the sake of needing more office space but to gain wall space to hang all of the “Look, I am somebody” swag we collect. But that does not change the fact that within days of leaving any assignment people start forgetting your name.
With that in mind I have my Unknown Priest looking over my shoulder. He reminds me why I am there – to share the love of God with Soldiers and their family members. No certificate, medal, plaque, or report will last. They will all fade away and at some point in the (hopefully very distant) future somebody will likely find those certificates in a rummage sale and buy them for the frames so he or she can show off what is important to them.
No matter what I accomplish my name on Earth will vanish from memory so it is important for me to remember to whom I really report. My commander can tell me that I have done a good job and I will appreciate it but I must remember that my true purpose is to perform my mission from God in such a way that after my name is long forgotten I am greeted by the Lord with the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
God Guard You and Keep You,
the Rev’d Dr SG Rindahl