A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ministry with an attitude

For some ministers, it is all about them: their personality, their ego, their gratification.

For some ministers, it is all about being accepted: by their congregation, by fellow clergy, by the intelligentsia, etc - being careful to say and do nothing that will offend anyone

For ministers of Christ, it should be all about Christ and about the truth.

Different ministers often approach ministry with different attitudes. Today's readings remind us of the attitude that ministers - ordained and lay - should have.

Today's Gospel (Matthew 20:20-28) begins with examples of ambition and resentment: attitudes too common in our communities today.

Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'edee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." ...and when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.

Our Lord quickly sets everyone straight

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their great men exercise authority over them.

It shall not be so among you;
but whoever would be great among you
must be your servant,
and whoever would be first among you
must be your slave;
even as the Son of man came
not to be served
but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The attitude of anyone who aspires to prominence or greatness as a Christian must therefore be an attitude of service.

Those in leadership positions within the Body of Christ must act as servants.

Likewise, any one of us - lay or ordained, you or I - who may aspire to greatness as a Christian, even private greatness, must also have the attitude of service.

…even as the Son of man came
not to be served
but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.

This attitude is not simply functional: it is not the simply the function of doing things for other people (although it includes that).

Our Lord hints strongly at this in what he says to the disciples: by referring to his own sacrificial death and in what he says to James and John.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?"

They said to him, "We are able."

He said to them, "You will drink my cup...”

Our attitude is not just the simple function of service or service for its own sake.

Our service and our attitude must be bound with the suffering and death of Christ.

The nitty-gritty reality of this is made brutally clear by the Apostle Paul in today's first reading (2 Corinthians 4:7-15):

We are troubled on every side,
yet not distressed;

we are perplexed,
but not in despair;

but not forsaken;

cast down,
but not destroyed;

Always bearing about in the body

the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus

might be made manifest in our body.

For we which live

are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake,
that the life also of Jesus

might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

This must be our attitude of service, whether we are exalted leaders or simple congregants within the Body of Christ.

We have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellency of the power
may be of God,
and not of us.

Such must be our attitude: the attitude of ministry, the attitude of anyone who follows Christ.