Monday, July 29, 2013

Something to Take Home

Last Sunday I did something pretty unusual for me: I gave the congregation five "invitation cards" per person to use this week--either in direct invitation to others to join us at St. Edward's or to leave behind in a conspicuous place where one might be found and pondered over. I essentially gave them some homework to do. My hope and prayer is that at least a majority of the nearly 40 people in worship on Sunday are busy thinking, praying, and spreading the Good News with those cards. But as I thought about it some more, it struck me that all of us, as Christians, have "homework"--living our lives in alignment with God's will and purpose. As one parish's web site says:
"the first and most important avenue of ministry for any baptized Christian is their daily life and work. What they do and say in their homes, at the work, and in their leisure. In addition to that, God calls each baptized Christian to take his or her place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church."
-- from
St. John's Church, Grand Haven, MI (emphais mine)
Those of us who work for the church for a living often forget that just as ordained ministers do not work only on Sunday mornings, so too those in the pews do most ministry outside the church walls. Certainly, as is pointed out, God calls us each to take our place in the life, worship, and governance of the church. However, as clergy we can often drift into a sense that if we can't find someone to teach Sunday School this week or to count the offering or to serve on the Vestry (church board) then people aren't really doing ministry. We're not sure what they're doing, but it isn't ministry!

Similarly, those in the pews can see those of us with collars as "professional ministers." Sometimes when I am asked to pray at a Kiwanis Club meeting or other semi-public event, I jokingly say "I'm a professional: Don't try this at home!" Of course, the reason it is a joke is that prayer is something that everyone should try at home--and at work, and anywhere else it occurs to them!  Similarly, most ministry both inside and outside of church is not done by clergy but by the laity.

The reality is that, for a Christian, all of life is ministry if lived intentionally so. Whether you are preparing a sermon for Sunday or preparing a meal for a friend or your family, service to others or even service to the Christ who lives in you can be ministry. As Brother Lawrence writes:
“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God  
So the lesson for all of us this week is to be as mindful of God in all of the work we do as I suggested members be mindful of distributing invitation cards. Our ministry is also our invitation--our invitation to others to love God and love others as God has loved us. Hope to see you on Sunday!

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