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Do We Serve God, or Does God Serve Us?

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

Featured image18  And I told them how God had been with me and helped me, and what the emperor had said to me. They responded, “Let’s start rebuilding!” And they got ready to start the work. Nehemiah 2:18 (TEV) 

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

When elected President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy directed the citizens of the USA to ask themselves a question.  Occasionally, I’ve heard that question adapted to the church, especially when a church is low on funds or wants to start a new ministry.  The adapted question reads something like this:

Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God (or at least for His church).

When I hear such motivational malarky (an old-fashioned word for bullshit) it irritates me slightly.  Okay, more than slightly.  Not because God’s people shouldn’t be active in ministry, they must be. But the reason for such activity is not to do something for God as if to earn His favor.  Or to do something for God, as if to repay some debt.  Our living as Christians isn’t something that has to be manipulated.

I’ve heard a similar question asked about church.  Do we go to church to serve God or to let God serve us.  Matter of fact, there are great debates about this, with judgment being poured out on those who think otherwise.  Both sides take up their positions, prepare their defenses, pump up their disciples, and start tossing cliche’s and one-line statements of wisdom.

It is the same question – do we serve, or are we served?  Is it all about pleasing God, or do we expect to be made happy.

It is neither.  Both sides of the question have overlooked the obvious.

it is not about who does what for whom.

It is about communion.  It is about knowingly living in the presence of God.  As Nehemiah wrote, “God had been with me”. as St Josemaria wrote, “with the fire of Christ you carry in your heart”  For them, what is to be done pours out of that intimate relationship with God. Not from demanded obedience, but from hearing Him,  (Greek and Hebrew scholars who are struggling with this, go look up the word for hear.)

Whether it is giving a thirsty man a cup of cold water, buying a homeless lady breakfast, visiting that person who is bedbound and can’t live a normal life, or kneeling and receiving the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you; our actions aren’t about who benefits.  it’s not a God scratches our back, we will scratch His.

It’s about walking with God, about rejoicing in His presence. To use an old phrase, it is about abiding with Christ or practicing the presence of God. (Except it isn’t practice!)

It is a Heavenly Father, walking through life with His children, even when our Father has to pick us up and carry us, because the road seems too tiring, to long.

So don’t ask what God will do for you, or what you will do for God.  Don’t go to church expecting to be served, or struggling with whether your service will be acceptable.

Simply be in the presence of God, enjoy His company, let Him be your Father and know you are His children.

The rest?  It will become obvious.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Ministry of the Church, a Shared Experience…

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4  There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. 5  There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. 6  There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. 7  The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (TEV)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]

There is often a division in the church that is both unnecessary,

It is said in different ways, but it is the division between laity and clergy.  It has gotten so bad at times, that churches haa abandoned the idea of setting apart of people for service.  Or it has gotten to the other extreme, and the ideas of pastor as CEO (or the older idea of Herr Pastor) comes into play, where all the authority is vested in the clergy.

It’s not supposed to be this way, it is the work together that is the work of the kingdom, there are different role, though some are more visible, or have responsibilities that differ, but the work is done together.  The clergy and the laity are together holy and sacred.  Neither should Lord it over the other, or act condescendingly toward each other.

You see, we have the same goal, to mature in our trust in God, to have our faith “grow” in Christ.  We come to know His love and celebrate His love together, as we share in HIs word, as we are His community gathered around the sacred times where those promises are revealed and made known to be ours.  Theses sacraments require both, pastor and parish, priest and penitential people,

I love how CFW Walther, and early leader in my denomination, phrases it in blue above.

Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.

We are to regard all who serve in ministering to others as ecclesiastical and sacred – part of the church and those celebrated.  We all serve God in the church, we are all set apart to serve the Lord, and our actions are part of His work (see Eph. 2:10)

Do the actions differ?  Yes.  Do the responsibilities?  Of course. But we share in this ministry of reconciling people to God.  We share in bringing them to a place of healing, a place of grace. It is our ministry, not as individual, but as one church.

May we concentrate more on the work, and waste less time on power squabbles and condescension.

Lord Have mercy on us!

 

 

[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Churhc and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

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