Sunday, March 25, 2018
Buzz words. . .
Two of the main culprits are the words ministry and mission. Ministry once had a rather specific context and meaning -- it referred to an office, to the office holder, and to the responsibilities conferred upon the office holder. Ministry was only marginally attached to the man and mostly to the Lord Jesus, to His ministry of Word and Sacraments. Ministry pointed to the altar, the pulpit, and the font. Now? Not so much. . .
Ministry has become a meaningless word because anything is a ministry and everyone a minister. In the end, the expanded version of the word points less to Christ and to the means of grace and more to the person and what he or she thinks or wants to do. MY ministry is what defines me and what gives me meaning and purpose. It is MINE and I get to define it but, even more so, I am the one who gets the credit for it all.
We routinely talk about the congregation's ministry -- as if it had a purpose and meaning outside of and apart from the Lord who calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies His Church. We speak of this ministry as if it were something owned, conferred, or directed by people. We talk about the ministry of groups within the parish. Perhaps we are self-conscious about those groups and unsure of their purpose and so we think that giving them a ministry makes them more noble and more churchly. We talk about every individual having a ministry -- from baking bread for the Sacrament (as one person put it to me) to giving candy to the kids on Sunday morning (yes, that was how it was put to me) and everything in between.
Mission has become about something other than the Word, other than the Kingdom, other than the work of the Spirit in bringing people to faith, washing them clean in baptism, restoring them to the Father who created them, guiding them through the voice of the Word through the valley of the shadow, and feeding the the heavenly bread and life-giving cup of His flesh and blood. Mission has become a code word for what makes me happy and, as we all know, if I am happy, God must be happy, too!
I recall some time ago when we were all on the small group craze and were doing anything and everything to create a place for people to fit. We were inventing groups and at one of the venues in which this stuff was being promoted as ministry groups with a mission purpose. Some of them were a ballroom dancing group, a home brewing group, a home schooling group, etc... I am not faulting the intent of the people but the way we have let down the Church by trivializing the things that are important and making important the things that are trivial. We did it. We thought we were doing it to make lay people feel better but we were really doing to make us feel better.
What we should be talking about is vocation -- life as the baptized child of God, life within the home as husband to wife and wife to husband and parent to child and child to parent, among other things. What we should be talking about are the noble callings we have from God that are not trivial or trite or inconsequential but real, honest, and good. Maybe we should simply refrain from the words ministry and mission unless we are talking about what God is doing in His Son through the means of grace. . . it may be a little late but better late than never. . .