Have you ever stopped to consider what it takes to be an ordained disciple of Christ? I ask that question of you as well as of myself, no matter what your order is. There is a simple challenge that every ordained person has to live with every day: how will I live out the dying and rising of Jesus this day? Jesus in the Gospel (Matthew 10:24-39) calls those who would follow him to not find their life but lose it for his sake. Jesus calls for total commitment even if it means your life. There is nothing and no one more important to the disciple than the Master. And every servant is watched and there is nothing that goes unnoticed, not even when you give a cup of cold water to someone who needs it.
The life of the ordained disciple is one that is called (perhaps not unsurprisingly) to total commitment. That commitment means that there is always the potential of a cross and of death as well in the near future. The Gospels often note such a thing. After all, whatever fate befell the Master, the servant ends up waiting for it. Ministry calls for such servants to be vulnerable and left to cultivate a dependence upon God the Father on a daily basis. The disciple looks to the Father for provision and for protection. The disciple is given authority to heal the sick, exorcise evil, cleanse the leper, and raise the dead. We are called to recognize that we are to be peacemakers and not peacekeepers and that peacemaking can be a rather messy business.
Because of that, fear of the messiness if not fear of everything in general, is the biggest disabler of ministry and worship. It is a driving force in our economy. It is used by politicians to gain and hold power by making people of afraid of what could happen if they do not remain. Fear is often used to maintain the status quo. There is fear in the Church because of shrinking numbers in congregations. There is fear because there are shrinking budgets. There is less and less energy giving to seeking the least, the last and the lost and more and more concentration on self preservation and on maintaining life as it used to be.
Maybe every Sunday needs to a back to Church Sunday? It is for certain that the Christian faith lives only one generation at a time. So what are we going to do in the present to pass things along to the next generation of Christians? Let me give you an example of what I mean. When I was little, my father would sit on the edge of my bed at bedtime and teach me to pray this way: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” I would make my list of people I wanted God to bless mommy, daddy, sister, grandmas and grandpas, aunts, and uncles, and so on. I mention this because when I was older and away from home, jet lagged and all that I was late going to bed one night while visiting with my parents. As I pasted their room on my way to bed, I could hear my father beside the bed, pray the same prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep … God bless…”
It was for me as an ordained person, the beginning of the immersion of my life into the life of Christ. And while I have learned how to pray extemporaneously, What I remember most is the light and the deep sincerity of those moments of shared prayer and what it would have meant in the lives of those who were remembered.
Moreover, Christian discipleship and leadership are not about this like titles and positions, except that they announce who a person serves and who a person is meant to lead. So for example, I am a Rector and a parish priest. I serve the people of my parish. I am also a Dean and I serve and care for the clergy and people around me in the Diocese as an experienced priest and pastor, providing leadership in concert with my Bishop and fellow clergy through teaching, preaching, and proclaiming Christ. It is not about being good or saying and doing the right things to get into heaven. We proclaim good news and we do go deeds because the Light and the Truth are already in us, leading us to the life and the land that God is preparing for us. Remember that salvation is a gift to be received and not a prize to be sought and won.