Friday, February 24, 2006

Our ministry

"I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me..." (Mtthew 25:40)

This is one of the clearest pictures of ministry in the bible. I think sometimes we think of ministry as just telling people about Jesus but what about meeting their needs? What about Jesus’ real mission? I don’t think Jesus came to the world just so that we could know about Him, His ministry was much larger. I think Marry gives us a great picture of Jesus ministry in her prophetic poem/song from Luke 1:
“Oh, how I praise the Lord.

How I rejoice in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and now generation after generation
will call me blessed.

For he, the Mighty One, is holy,
and he has done great things for me.

His mercy goes on from generation to generation,
to all who fear him.

His mighty arm does tremendous things!
How he scatters the proud and haughty ones!

He has taken princes from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.

He has satisfied the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.

And how he has helped his servant Israel!
He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful.

For he promised our ancestors—Abraham and his children—
to be merciful to them forever.”
–Luke 1.46-55

Jesus ministry was exalting the lowly, satisfying the hungry, helping the helpless. Ministry includes teaching and talking about the important things (including the Bible). But we cannot call ourselves ministers without meeting people's needs, just as we cannot be ministers without in some way passing on this great truth and tradition of which we are a part.

My vocation and my ministry are closely linked. Now, In my vocation as a student and a roommate it would be really easy for me to not be a minister. I can have a vocation without a ministry but not a ministry without a vocation. To be a minister I have to vocationally do ministry, it has to be vocationally who I am. If I can't do ministry in the small things, in the everyday, how could I expect to do ministry anywhere else? This doesn’t mean becoming a pastor or a choir member, it means opening up our definition to allow construction workers and street sweepers me be ministers. in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “No matter how small one thinks his life’s work is… it has cosmic significance if he is serving humanity and doing the will of God.” (The Measure of a Man, p.42)

It can't just be left at talk; I can't talk people into the Kingdom of God. I have to demonstrate the gospel before anyone can really understand it. The gospel is so deep and mystical that it has to be shown or else we are speaking different a language which no one will understand who have not experienced it. I can't profess a God who wants to make things right and wants to feed the hungry without trying to do the same. If I just talk about Jesus and never really become a part of His mission, never meet people’s needs, then I am presenting something other than Jesus… this is not ministry. If we offer a hungry man Jesus without ever offering him bread what kind of Jesus are we offering anyway?

16 comments:

Jason S said...

Jesus' main mission was to "seek and save that which is lost", and to "lay down His life for His sheep."
The Jews already had a system in place to take care of the poor. Jesus didn't have to leave His throne in heaven in order to feed 5000 men.

If one fails to see the true purpose of Jesus' incarnation, all he is left with is a "social gospel."

WES ELLIS said...

Jason,
I agree Jason, You can't leave out Jesus plan to seek and save. But I think we have a very western idea of that. we see it as a salvation of only one part of us; our soul. But our soul cannot be emancepated from the rest of us lest we fall into dualism. Jesus wants to save all of me my whole self; body, soul, spirit (they're all one anyway). We can't just take some parts of Jesus' mission statement and leave out the others. Jesus wants to seek and save that which was lost, he wants to save our whole selves, He wants to bring social change. The gospel is about resoration, healing, acceptance, love, etc. If we don't demonstrate those things we're misrepresenting the Christ who came to heal the world.
Shalom
Wes

Inheritor of Heaven said...

I agree Wes. If you leave out the "social gospel", then you are leaving out the "incarnational" aspect of the church, the Body of Christ. God very much cares about our bodily and emotional and spiritual needs and he uses us as agents to minister to others. This seems very clear to me on reading Isaiah 58 (among many, many other places).

Ashley said...

I agree with you so much in this post Wes, I think all too often people confuse ministry as something completly separated from the rest of their lives. It is totally possible to be involved in something as part of our vocation. Ministry can be being a good roommate, student, girlfriend. I think it would almost be doing the opposite to forsake such things in order to "do ministry". Great post!

WES ELLIS said...

inheritor,
ahhhh... Isaiah 58... " I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help."
Music to my ears. thanks so much for reminding us of this amazing chapter.

Have you ever noticed the reference to this chapter in the book of John?

John says: "And the light shineth in darkness..." (1.5)

this may refer us to what Isaiah says: "Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness..."

Maybe the light is feeding the hungry and helping those in trouble. That's what Jesus was all about.

Jason S said...

I guess, my question is, why do you have no problem with the social gospel, but are afraid to say "repent for the kingdom of God is at hand."

By the way, I am still anticipating your response to my question about making things right.

WES ELLIS said...

who said I had a problem with "repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand?" If you read my early posts the very sentence is what promted me to begin this blog. T'shuva (repent in hebrew) is not far removed from Tikkun Olam (healing the world), which is what I am discussing, in a 1st century understanding. Repentance is first and formost what we are called to but you must understand that repentance is returning to the way things were originally intended to be... this means healing the world... social change. So I guess you could say that repentance is what my last few posts have been about.

by the way in response to your question about "making things right" I mean Tikkun Olam (healing the world), bringing our exsistence to what God intends it to be. this is very wholistic. Think of it this way: imagine a problem in the world... imagine if that problem did not exsist... that's making things right, making a world without problems (this is a very simple explaimation there may be a lot more to it).

Jason S said...

Repentance means turning from one's sins and turning toward God
"Unless you repent, you will likewise perish." Jesus

Does making things right also include casting unrepentant sinners into an eternal lake of fire?

WES ELLIS said...

Jason,
maybe.

Mike Exum said...

Jesus first and formost mission is to usher in the Kingdom of God. It is his first sermon -Repent and believe! The Kingdom of God is at hand.

A little phrase I am teaching others to say: "The Kingdom of God is all about how the world is ordered. It is a new world order with God reigning as the King. So world order becomes the issue for us as it was for Jesus.

Wisdom is all about seeing connections. Understanding the way things are connected and/or should be connected has great significance for world order.

As for "Repent and believe", the phrase is very much related in that at the time Jesus preached it, Israel was in disorder. They were wanting to bring a Jewish style order to the world, but they were really just bringing a Jewish version of Rome -as in kill your enemies and love your friends (maybe). Actually they were not loving each other very well either, and they were the core of God's plan of redemption. So Jesus calls them to repent.

N.T. Wright points out a very interesting and obscure little story in Josephus about the phrase "Repent and believe" in his book THE CHALLENGE OF JESUS. There Josephus goes to a young hot-headed rebel leader in Galilee who is starting a rebellion of killing against Rome. In an effort to broker a peace deal between Rome and the rebels, Josephus tells the young rebel leader, "Repent and believe in me." In doing so he is not suggesting that the rebel leader give up some private sin like lust or greed or homosexuality etc. He is effectively saying, trust me to get you a better deal with the Romans than the headlong destruction you are asking for by picking this fight.

This colors our understanding of the phrase and the Kingdom message that goes with it. You cannot usher in God's Kingdom by force, manipulation or killing. It is ushered in with love. Love orders the world, not arrogance, not egotism, not ethnicism, not manipulation, force, killing etc. Love does. And not just any love, but sacrificial image bearing love devoted to YHWH and each other.

Many blessings...

WES ELLIS said...

Bingo Mike!
You hit the nail on the head. Thanks for the great thoughts!
Shalom
Wes

Jason S said...

Mike- This is precisely the problem with the emergent movement...a re-defining of terms.

Rev 2:21- "I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds."

Rev 9:21 "And they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immoralities nor of their thefts."

Could it be any more clear what repent means?

Jason S said...

Wes- What do you mean by maybe? Does the bible speak on this issue or not?

Pastor Art said...

The order of the Kingdom holds the key to personal social cultural holiness. There are 7 concepts of “SIN” in Hebrew and if I remember right 5 in Greek. The dynamic of repent and turn from your sin is not a single plane issue. Let us look at "Saga" - meaning to rebel this concept is speaking of determined contrary action against. Contrast this with "Awon" which is the concept of the resultant injustice from greed or something of that nature.(these are of the top of my head compairisons not exhaustive studies) "Awon" points tothe widows and orphans issues and other social injustice issues that "emergent" [what a bad thing] people / groups are addresing. Seen today in homlessness of families because the parents are drug addicts - things like that. Repentance for each of these situations looks different and has to be approached differently so we can administer grace leading to repentance and Kingdom order. This is the “ministry - servant hood” of reconciliation - restoration! Not spouting unrelated words or concepts at people no matter how authoritative and err-less they are.
Pastor Art

Inheritor of Heaven said...

I must have missed something, I have only just breezed through some comments but I know Jesus' first public ministry words echoed John the Baptist's "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." All I am saying is it must be a Both/And ministry. Christian witness is not just "REPENT!" but it is also feeding, healing, setting free, etc. Is that not correct Jason?

WES ELLIS said...

Jason,
Our hope is not to re-define anything rather it is to re-examine and ind the right definition, the deinition that's always been there but we've missed. I don't see how the verses you used prove anything contradictory to what Mike and I have been saying. The word T'shuva means "return." It is to return to the way God intended us to live and be. What do you disagree with?