Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Strong Proclamations in Quiet Tones

1 Corinthians 15 1-11

In this whole experience that my family is going through, I have had cause to think about work. My trade, if you will, is “preacher”, but the modern day minister also has a large amount of administration that must be handled, and there are also demands to counsel, to provide care and spiritual guidance, and to teach.

None of us do all of these things excellently, there are always things that are less interesting to preachers than others. Sometimes, even, people prefer the pastoral counseling and do not enjoy the preaching bit. But we are called to it all when we are called to the job, and where we are not good or talented, we find ways to get the job done, or ask others to do it.

I expect that every job is the same way. I expect that there are aspects of farming that people do better than others, and some aspects are more enjoyable.

Plant work?

Dog sitting?

Serving in the military?

My work by training is as a minister. In seminary, people take great care in saying that it is a professional career, and must be minded as a career. Indeed, I do think of it as a career.

But right now, I am not ministering to a congregation. At least not in any way I visualized when I graduated. I am ministering to a very small group of people, which by any professional standard is a failure. I spend my daily work in service to two or sometimes three people. And the service I provide is a very mundane one; driving to school, picking up from school, cooking. It is a very earthy one; laundry, trash, helping with personal care.

Seminary did not train me for any of these things. Seminary did not teach me how to love, and what sometimes we must physically do because we love. It did not teach me that I needed to set myself aside in order to be able to do what is necessary in this situation. It did teach me that I am supposed to be the “expert” in my field. It did not teach me that asking for help is necessary and vital to survival.
And yet, despite all of my training, it is the work that I do now that shows love. It is the help that I ask for that shows love. It is the things that I cannot do, the expectations I cannot meet, that show God’s love for us in the most important ways. I hope that, by making the choices I’ve made, using the help that has been given to me, that the love of God is shown most clearly to those who need to see it most.

For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is within me.

I will expect that when I look back on my career as a minister, the time when I was the least available to my congregation was when my witness was at it’s strongest. That the work that I did, completely domestic and out of the view of my community, out of newspapers and denominational magazines, that was my strongest witness.

That the love of God was seen at its sharpest light was when I was the most invisible, when I needed the most help.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that his work was his witness. Sure, he taught them the proper way to think about Christ, what he did for all of humanity, but he hoped that he would be remembered for how the work he did reflected the God and the savior he believed in, even though he had persecuted them in the beginning.

My wish is similar-that somehow, in ways that I cannot even imagine, the love and the grace of God has been shown through this experience to you. By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not, I hope, been in vain. I am working harder than I ever have in my life, and so little of it has been on what Seminary told me was the professional aspects of ministry. But the grace of God, the love of God is at its’ clearest right now, and I call your attention to it. I also pray that, by the grace of God, it can be seen strongly enough to matter.

And I invite you to think for yourself; How is the work you do, how is the life you lead, showing the love of God? There are no better or no worse ways. Each way is individual, and half of the witness is realizing that it’s there.

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