The Reminder…. is our Ministry
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross
And so he left his country and went to live in Haran. After Abraham’s father died, God made him move to this land where you now live. God did not then give Abraham any part of it as his own, not even a square metre of ground, but God promised to give it to him, and that it would belong to him and to his descendants. At the time God made this promise, Abraham had no children. Acts 7:4-5 GNT
So it is in keeping with the core of Biblical tradition to look at the ministry in the context of remembrance. Therefore I will discuss our spiritual resources by looking at the minister as a reminder: first, as a healing reminder, second as a sustaining reminder, third as a guiding reminder.
We are a people who have been taught to live in and for the present. That we need to be free our past, and we cannot let our anxieties about the future color our present life. We only live now, in this moment… ( o wait – that moment is now passed..hmmm…)
There is a point to it – that things past and future should not handicap our present life.
That doesn’t mean that we should divorce ourselves from either. We need the lessons from the past, the remmbrance of God’s promise to work in our lives, to intimately be involved in healing what is broken, in sustaining us in the present, and in guiding us into the future. Fr. Nouwen was right – our ministry is based in these reminders, both from the scriptures, and in the promises given through the hands of priests and pastors who baptize, absolve and give us the Body and Blood of Christ!
Abraham is a great example of counting on such promises. Stephen talks of his trust, his faith in God such that it was generations before the promise would be realized. It didn’t matter, the faith was there. Abraham depended on God being faithful to His promise, even thought he wouldn’t see Moses guiding people to the Holy Land, or Solomon’s Temple, or the death, burial and resurrection of His Lord Jesus Christ.
He would pass that faith on through the generations, some would have it, some would neglect it, but it was there, as God called people back, to bless them, to continue the promise. To trust and walk with God, sieing tht the promise is not just for us in this moment, as Peter notes, “39 For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the “‘Lord our God calls to himself.'”
This is our ministry, facilitating the trust and dependence people have on God. It is not done with the strength of our character, rather by our ability to remember His presence, as He fulfills His promises to us, and those who come after us. And using the phrase, “our ministry,” I am referring to the church, not just to pastors, deacons and the like.
God’s promises will make the difference, and knowing about them is critical.
Lord, help our faith to grow like Abraham’s, and help us to minister to others – helping them remember Your promises and recognize Your presence! AMEN!
Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder: Service and prayer in the memory of Jesus Christ. Seabury Press; 1977, page 13
Top Down Christianity? I Don’t Think So…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy, do make my best hope for you come true! Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view. Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. Phillipians 2:1- 6ish ( Phillips New Testament)
“In solitude we can come to the realization that we are not driven together, but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not just as partners who can satisfy our deepent needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God’s all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that community is not in common ideology, but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed realize that community is not made, but given. (1)
I have slowly been working through a document assigned to me, about my role within the church at large. I have struggled with it, because it finds “hope” for the church, not within the body of Christ itself, but within the leadership of the church. I don’t think so, matter of fact, I know from 15 years of pastoral ministry, and almost that long in management, it doesn’t work that way. It instead. Deacons, Pastors, Priests, Bishops, are not that which around the church grows, even if we are often a focal point during a worship service.
The identity of the Church, whether in a congregational form, or in the sense of the Church being all believers throughout the world and time (what some theologians call the invisible church) is not based in its leadership. It is based in Christ, and in His love and mercy. It is found when people are brought together in the love of Christ, and begin experiencing that love from others. It requires patience, as we grow in love, and the side effect of that is growing in knowledge. Let me make this clear – it is not growing people primarily theologically that is the mission of the church, it is growing people int heir trust of God, in their desire to receive His love, which results in them loving their neighbor. Theology may help in this endeavor, but it will not, cannot replace that which the church should be.
Let me give two examples. You can have the proper view of the Lord’s Supper, You can define it as well as Chemnitz, be able to receite Acquinas and Abelard and every theological nuance about it. But if that is what is going through your mind as you kneel at the altar rail, you have missed something. The words Luther found so necessary to know, given/shed for you. I’ve seen guys who were gang members, and little children be able to know that, to cry with tears of “for me? Really”, to tears of purest joy as they partake. That is the church.
Another example. A little less than a month ago, my wife gave me the news that she was pregnant. At our age, we were concerned and ask people to pray, and many did. On Tuesday, we were told that Kay had miscarried, something we suspected…yet prayed wasn’t true. It’s hard to even type these words. But the church, the church as the entity of the body of believers are coming through. Many expressions of their sorrow with us, but even more, the words that sound so powerfully into my heart. “praying for you”.
Praying for you.
Only two people tried to come up with some kind of theory that they thought would relieve our pain, or make it less. Those explanations didn’t make it less. But over 100 people acknowledged the loss, the lack of words, gathered us up and brought our pain before God, knowing no other words would offer us help. That’s not top-down church. That’s not the owrk of just one congregation, for there were Lutherans, Catholics, a Methodist. Young and old, Clergy and laity,. Ministering to my wife and I, in a way that made sense. That’s just the church, the people of God, having the mindset of Christ. They know His love, and know that in times like this, that is what will sustain us. That’s the church. That is the church who will love those around them, even as Christ does. That’s the church that will reach out to those that are broken, and minister to them, doing whatever it takes, for the broken come first.
The church, gathered, brought together to be in Christ, is something wonderful to behold. But it is not something that can be driven, It is something that is generated and kindled by God’s love. Can a leader set the example? Yes, but he cannot demand those who follow to toe the line, or force Christ-likedness.
Lord Have mercy on us!
(1) Hendri Nouwen, from Clowning in Rome (as cited in Celtic Daily Prayer, Aiden Readings 2/27)