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Go!

“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’”
                                                                                   Matthew 10:7-8

I think the longer I serve as a priest in the Church (and I’ve logged just south of 30 years now), the more I am struck that Jesus’ apostles were not, in fact, ordained clergy in the way you and I might identify such folk today. Nope, they had a variety of professions. We do not know what all of them did, but we do know most were fishermen. One–Matthew–was a tax collector and others, no doubt, had other kinds of jobs common to ancient Palestine: carpenter, tradesman, etc. The Apostle Paul, though not one of the original 12, was actually a tentmaker (Acts 18:13).

It is this group that Jesus calls together and sends out in Matthew 10. He does not give them a diploma or a collar, no Bible or Prayer Book, just a charge, “Go!” Go! Tell! Heal! Serve… Love! It is a message Jesus would reiterate the night before His crucifixion (John 13:1-17), after His resurrection (John 20:19-23) and right before His ascension (Matthew 28:16-20).

If you are a follower of Christ, then this call–this same charge Jesus gave to His first followers–is a call and charge to you.

When a bishop lays his or her hands upon your head during the sacramental rite of confirmation, the words spoken are: “Strengthen, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit; empower him/her for your service; and sustain him/her all the days of his/her life. Amen.” A sacrament is a symbol–an outward and visible sign–and that we are to own what they signify is important. In the same way we are called to live into our baptismal vows, we are called to live into this confirmation prayer: that we accept Jesus’ charge and receive Jesus’ Spirit, for His service.

Scottish pastor and writer, Oswald Chambers (d. 1917), once wrote, “The special person called to do missionary work is every person who is a member of the church of Christ. The call does not come to a chosen few, it is to every one of us.”[1]

There is much more to say about all of this, but here’s the point: regardless of what we do for a living, we need to constantly be in prayer and thought about the One for Whom we are living–Jesus. And as we do, we will, in fact, be responding to the charge of our Lord.

As my mentor, Anglican theologian and priest, the late John Stott wrote: “...all Christians without exception are called to ministry, indeed to spend their lives in ministry. Ministry is not the privilege of a small elite, but of all the disciples of Jesus... We do a great disservice to the Christian cause whenever we refer to the pastorate as “the ministry.” For by our use of the definite article we give the impression that the pastorate is the only ministry there is, much as medieval churchmen regarded the priesthood as the only (or at least the most “spiritual”) vocation there is... all Christians without exception are called to ministry.”[2]
 
This life of ministry to which we are all called is expressed in a wonderful set of prayers one can find at Coventry Cathedral in the West Midlands of England. Though the cathedral was devastated by aerial bombs in 1940 during World War II, around the walls of the ruins are several small panels, each of which includes a prayer for God’s name to be “hallowed” or honored–revered–in a variety of realms of one’s work. For that reason, the prayers are actually called “hallowing prayers” and here is their plea:
 
In industry, God be in my hands and in my making.
In the arts, God be in my sense and in my creating.
In the home, God be in my heart and in my loving.
In commerce, God be at my desk and in my trading.
In healing, God be in my skill and in my touching.
In government, God be in my plans and in my deciding.
In education, God be in my mind and in my growing.
In recreation, God be in my limbs and in my leisure.[3]
 
What do these prayers remind us? They remind us that we are all ministers, we are all called and we are all charged to go–go into the world–for the sake of Christ.

As our Lord said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Look around: there’s plenty left to do. Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in–for the sake of the Kingdom, for Christ’s sake indeed.
 
A Prayer
Lord, help me to live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray
May prayers shall be for others
 
Others, Lord; yes others
Let this my motto be
Let me live for others
That I may live like Thee.
 
From the hymn, “Others”
Published in 1902 by C.D. Meigs
 
[1] Oswald Chambers, So I Send You.
[2] John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, p.140.
[3]From the prayers found at Coventry Cathedral. Cf. John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, p. 94.
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
Rector
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