Sometimes it is so difficult to put into words just what it means to be called to the ministry - especially when one tries to narrow it down to why I believe I'm called to be a minister in this particular church, at this time, in this way.
So this testimony of Rev Dr Knut Heim, a Methodist minister in the UK, which was delivered shortly before his own ordination as a minister back in 2001, really hit the spot for me. If only we could all be true to this call, as expressed in these wonderful words...
What’s it all about? – It’s all about Jesus. Why do I want to become a minister, and one of the Methodist variety at that? Called to be a fisher of men and women, boys and girls. A royal priest, a saint, a holy man, God’s own, a servant, yes, a slave of God; a bishop, a shepherd, a leader, an overseer, a steward, a servant, a father, a mother, a presbyter, an elder, a vicar, a vicarius Dei, a representative of God, a messenger, an ambassador, a divine postman, a builder in the house of God, a living sacrifice. Why? What’s it all about? – It’s all about Jesus.
When the glory and the honour, the clerical shirt and the collar, the cassock and the alb, the stole and the hood, the power and the prestige are stripped away, and it’s simply me ... it’s all about Jesus. I want to bring something that’s of worth, something that’ll last, something that’ll bring joy to Jesus' heart — a treasure in heaven.
I want to bring more than a sermon, more than a prayer, more than a saved soul, more than a sacrament, more than a house or hospital visit, more than a wedding, more than a funeral, more than an offering, more than a committee meeting, more than a service to the community, for all that in itself is not what he’s required. Don’t get me wrong, I want to bring all that; but I want to bring more than that.
I am rich with many treasures, spiritual and otherwise. We are all rich in so many ways. Yet we have these treasures in jars of clay – yes, we have all, not only feet of clay, but hearts of clay, ambitions of clay, jobs of clay, cars of clay, houses of clay, relationships of clay – all that’s best, we have life’s treasures in clay. How quickly does it fade away ... how quickly do our dreams evaporate in the stark light of reality, how quickly does that job for life drop into the deep abyss of broken promises, how quickly do our cars rust and rot away under the gnawing teeth of time, how quickly does the mortar crumble from the wall, the paint of our facades become faint and shabby. How precariously perched are our closest relationships on the ragged edge of estrangement, the cliff of indifference, the dagger of divorce, knocked about by outside pressures and undermined by the teeth of temptation.
What’s it all about? It’s all about Jesus. I’m coming back to the heart of my calling, and it’s all about him, Jesus. I’m coming back to the heart of our ministry, and I’m sorry for the thing we’ve made it, when it’s all about him, Jesus. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in my ear: it soothes my sorrows, heals my wounds and drives away my fear. Jesus: he makes my wounded spirit whole, he calms my troubled breast, he feeds my famined soul, gives me, when weary, rest. Jesus! My Shepherd, Brother, Friend, my Prophet, Priest, and King, My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End. Or let me say it with the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux: "The name of Jesus is both light and nourishment ... As honey to the taste, as melody in the ear, as songs of gladness in the heart, so is the name of Jesus. And medicine it is as well ... Nothing but the name of Jesus can restrain the impulse of anger, repress the swelling of pride, cure the wound of envy, bridle the onslaught of luxury, extinguish the flame of lust – can temper avarice, and put to flight impure thoughts. For when I name the name of Jesus, I call to mind at once a Man meek and lowly of heart, benign, pure, temperate, merciful; a Man conspicuous for every honourable and saintly quality; and also in the same Person the Almighty God – so that He both restores me to health by His example and renders me strong by His assistance."
When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of Glory died, See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down; Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
The church believes that "the chief responsibility of the ordained ministry is to assemble and build up the body of Christ by proclaiming and teaching the Word of God, by celebrating the sacraments, and by guiding the life of the community in its worship, its mission and its caring ministry". Yet, we must see the ordained ministry from the perspective of the calling of the whole people of God. We are all called to worship, learning and teaching, service and evangelism.
What Jesus has done for us, what he has given to us and what he has become for us is beyond comparison. It’s all about him, Jesus. Jesus is the light that illumines our dark world, this vale of tears. He is the one who has given us the Holy Spirit, the triune God’s powerful presence within us and among us, enabling us to live life to the full ... if and when we live for him. Jesus has given us freedom to live life the right way round, with a goal and a purpose. We are rich in him. He has given us life’s treasures in abundance.
God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the face of Christ — it’s all about Jesus. And when we have Jesus, when we live in the light, then God’s supreme power is at work in us: Even when troubled, we are not crushed; in doubt? Yes, but never in despair; surrounded by enemies, yes: but never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. Jesus has given us a life worth living and dying for. What’s it all about? - It’s all about Jesus. Love so amazing, so divine, demands our soul, our life, our all. And so I want this testimony to be an invitation to you, to give your life to Jesus anew, to join me in the words of Charles Wesley’s great hymn:
"I would the precious time redeem, And longer live for this alone:
To spend, and to be spent, for them who have not yet my Saviour known;
Fully on these my mission prove, and only breathe, to breathe thy love.
My talents, gifts and graces, Lord, into thy blessèd hands receive;
And let me live to preach thy word, And let me to thy glory live;
My every sacred moment spend, In publishing the sinner’s friend."
Re-imagining Church - part 2 - Last month I wrote an article for Scripture Union magazine on Re-imagining Church. As I began to explore this huge topic I realised that I have undertak...
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