I must confess, many times when I think of ministry I envision ordained pastors in white collars doing "holy stuff" like preaching, wearing strange Jedi robes, and administering the Lord's Supper. Or maybe if I think about it a little longer, I see people traveling to far away places and living barefoot with tribal people in Africa. Is that what you see in your mind's eye as well?
Well, that whole vision of ministry is way off because it is so myopic. The last thing the Church needs is everyone in the pew to become an ordained priest or for all of us to pull up our roots in Georgetown and move wholesale to Africa.
Now the callings of being a missionary or a pastor are high and holy callings! They are good. Just to be clear, I'm a pastor and I really think it's great! But God has a far broader, far deeper, and far more revolutionary vision of ministry.
What if I told you that the most holy, most powerful, most world-changing, most God-pleasing ministry is right in front of you?
Listen to how Paul articulates this in his letter to the Colossians, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (3:23)."
As we read in this week's Gospel lesson, St Paul and John the Baptist agree. In preparation for Christ's coming, you are called to love your neighbor through your jobs, i.e. though your vocations. Are you a husband, salesman, father, and tee-ball coach? Love your neighbor by doing those vocations with a Holy Spirit empowered radical generosity and honesty. Are you a mom, small businesswoman, and on the local school board? Love your neighbor through doing those things honestly and well. Are you a son, a student, brother, and hockey goalie? Love your neighbor through each of your vocations.
This last week I ministered to the Lord through changing some diapers, assembling a bookcase for my wife, and talking economic theory with an old friend. Guess what happened? I had an opportunity to invite my old friend to come worship with us. We will see what God does!
That's what God has been doing through me. But each of you have unique realms of influence and connections that as a pastor I will never have.
Remember, God never calls us to do something he hasn't already done. Jesus spent many years doing hard labor, working with his hands. He honored his mother in his vocation as her son. But beyond all else in his vocation as Savior of the world, Jesus was faithful to God through his radical generosity. He loved you to death on that cross. So let us confess our sins, turn to Jesus and receive his blood-bought forgiveness and Holy Spirit. Then let's show our neighbors what a living faith looks like in the real world.