What makes me the minister that I am?

19 September 2019

What is it that makes me the minister I am?

  • Is it John Wesley’s theology? Less likely I think than the hymns of his brother Charles.
  • Is it the model presented by 17th century puritan pastor Richard Baxter?
  • Or the example set down for us in Paul’s letter to Timothy?

What is it that makes me the minister I am?

  • Is it the sense of God’s presence that took me by surprise on a familiar walk across Cannock Chase 40 years ago this coming spring?
  • Is it the Gospel of John Lennon for music has played a great part in in my reflections over the years?
  • Or is it my daily devotions I try to faithful maintain each morning, and fail more often than I would like to admit?

All of these may be contributory factors but what is it that most makes me the minister I am? Is it I wonder, the people I have encountered and continue to encounter each and every day of my life? Yes, above all others it is the lives, stories, characters, idiosyncrasies of those I meet when walking my dog, when sifting through racks of bargains at TKMaxx, when packing my shopping into reusable bags at the supermarket checkout, or promising the attendant at the petrol station that I will get a new and undamaged Nectar card for my next visit? Yes all of these and so many more that make me the minister I am.

This should come as little or no surprise to those who recognize God in every individual. The core message of the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the belief that we are all, every single one of us, made in the image of God. As a consequence the writer of I John 4 is able to conclude that in loving one another we know something of God and conversely in knowing something of God we feel compelled to love one another. It’s a chicken and egg. Which comes first?

  • Loving one another followed by knowing God because there is something of God in the person we love?
  • Or knowing that God is manifested in one another and therefore we are compelled to love them?

Let’s think about this for a moment as ministers, chaplains and disciples of God’s grace: in loving we shall know God; in knowing God we shall love one another even more fully than before.

There is something very powerful about knowing. When we know one another well, we can have a good stab at guessing how they might react to something, how they might behave in certain circumstances, but we can also love them more deeply when mistakes occur – for we know what makes them tick.

Equally so there is something very powerful about loving. When we love we create an environment in which mutual respect and eventually reciprocal love can take root. Therefore not only is the one whom we love being impacted upon, so are we. Those we encounter and engage with are shaping us by their response to our attention, our care and concerns. We begin to realise that we are not all that we may have thought of ourselves, there is still much within us to complete.

  • The conversation with a stranger on the seat next to me on a long train journey.
  • The brief encounter with someone who washes my car.
  • Seeing the busker at the end of the day knowing he has made too little to buy the ready-cooked meal he wanted.

All of these and so much more make me what I am and hone my ministerial insights and intentions.

And I turn to another question of interest to me: what was it that made J what he was? Where is the teaching in the early years of his adulthood? Was there any I wonder? Or was there an informative silence?

  • A time to contemplate?
  • A soaking in of all that he was seeing and hearing on the shoreline of the Galilee or the streets of the surrounding villages?
  • Witnessing the hurts and fears?
  • Listening in on the debates?
  • Mulling over what God had in store for his life?
  • Formulating stories that would resonate with the people?

All of these and so much more for sure. As I read scripture and in particular the accounts of the life of Jesus we call the Gospels, I can detect a growing Jesus rather than a static Jesus.

  • We see this in the wilderness as Jesus wrestles with his destiny.
  • We see it in the debates he has with those who came to him for help or healing – there is sometimes a negotiation involved.
  • We even witness it in Gethsemane in the shadow of the Temple on Mt Moriah, the site of Ab’s would-be sac of his son Isaac.

Jesus was not complete from day one. But like us Jesus was a growing human being, becoming more aware of the world about him, gathering more understanding of the needs of those with whom he shared the living space, responding in ever increasing commitment and deepening love. This is the eg I take with me in my encounters with those ab me. And it helps me when I realize that I am not yet complete:

  • Misunderstandings occur.
  • Mistakes happen.
  • Meaningfulness often eludes me.

But the encounter, the engagement, is the opportunity to love and to know, to know and to love.

It is indeed a reciprocal transformational process.

  • The chaplain and client.
  • The minister and congregant.
  • The neighbour with neighbour.
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