It’s Everyone’s Job Hebrews 4:14-5:10
October 17, 2021
This week I’m visiting San Diego State University, where my daughter and 33,000 other students attend school. Each one hoping to find their place in the world. Be it engineering, applied sciences, or global business, whatever they are looking for the school’s website boasts this is the place to power your dreams.
When I graduated from college, I never dreamt of going back. I had enough formal education for one life. But God had other dreams for me and empowered me to go to grad school. And well…here we are, ready to live, love and learn how to be like Jesus. Whether or not you went to college, if you follow Christ, you are his disciple. A student of his way.
At the end of the day, we are all students learning how to manage this world. And this life we are given is but one long lesson. But there always comes a time when the student is called to be the teacher, sharing whatever wisdom they’ve pick up along the way.
It might not come as a surprise that the one person in my life whose life lessons have been the most influential is Jesus of Nazareth. An unknown author, wrote this which speaks to one particular way Jesus moves us from student to teacher
READ Hebrews 4:14-16
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested[a] as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When I finally decided to give in to my call to ministry, my dad suggested I speak with my childhood pastor, Bob Walkup. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but boy am I glad I called. Because Bob said something that has stuck with me ever since. In his soft-spoken southern voice, he said, “Ian, you’ve always been a minister.” It wasn’t until I was thinking about this passage, that I fully grasped what Bob meant.
Although this priestly description in Hebrews is about Jesus, it also speaks to who we are as his students, his disciples. More than students, we are called to teach others about God’s redeeming love. Which means we are all called to be ministers.
I bet that’s the last word you’d use to describe yourself. I hold a theology degree and ordination papers, and even I hesitate to call myself that because of the negative connotations attached to it. And lets honest, there are times when I barely understand my own faith muchless know how to manage others. I constantly wonder why God wants someone like me to teach the world about love, especially God’s love? Who am I? What do I know?
After decades of trying to figure it out, I’ve come to this conclusion: God uses our brokenness and failures to minister to the world. I mean that’s what God does; uses foolishness and weakness to humble the wise and strong. The cross and resurrection say it all.
How you’ve learned to deal with addiction, pain, grief, rejection, or any other challenge you’ve faced, all speak to God’s redemptive work on your life. It might not be the prettiest or happiest way to go about it, but every story you’ve ever written, God will use to tell a greater story. The redemption story of Christ Jesus, our High Priest.
Now, I used to hate the scar that cancer gave me. Most people don’t see it. But every time I looked in the mirror it just screamed at me - reminding and reprimanding me of my past. Then one day I was sitting with a person undergoing chemo. It was my first time meeting her, and instead of preaching a bunch of platitudes that might help her feel better, I showed her my scar. This ugly line was the bridge between us.
Because we shared a story, we quickly formed a close bond that allowed us to trust one another and minister to each other from our hearts and hurts. Now when I see this line across my neck, I no longer think about what I might have done to have caused it. Instead, I think of what God did to redeem it.
Whatever you’re experiencing, your story is a part of God’s great story. One we share with Jesus himself. By his own pain and suffering Jesus blessed our scars and ordained our stories. Misfits, addicts, saints, and sinners alike are all called to be ministers, preaching and teaching God’s great love to the world.
Sure, it might be my job to do the churchy things – like teaching Bible stuff and leading worship. But Jesus made it very clear that we all share the responsibility to pray for one another, forgive each other, and to care for the burdens of the least of these our brothers and sisters.
As disciples of Jesus, as students of Christ, our job in life is to continue his ministry – to teach the good news of God’s redemptive love in all the ways we love one another. I’m sure if you look at your own story, you will see how you have always been a minister whether you were trying or not.
A met a man who’s been helping a Vet deal with PTSD. He confessed he doesn’t really do much but listen and offers the guy a safe space to let it all out. Do you think this guy knew he was imitating Christ who heard the cries of people and showed sympathy towards them?
I’m part of an organization that helps people living with food insecurities. The folks who come don’t care if I’m a minister or not. But in each bag of groceries, each loaf of bread offered, God’s love and provision is proclaimed.
Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness are all we need to do to show the world just how big and inclusive God’s love really is.
Again, it’s not just my job to listen to or comfort others, it’s yours as well. We are all pastors called to offer hope. Each one of us a priest given the ability to sanctify any situation. Every one of us is a minister called to preach God’s love by being God’s love as Christ taught us to do.
The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the Great High Priest. He is the one who is in charge of offering gifts and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people for their sins. Now, the literal meaning of the word “priest” is “bridge.” That is to say, Jesus is the bridge between God’s desire and our needs.
But if you know the gospel story, you know Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time in the temple with the official High Priest. Instead, he walked the dirty streets. And entered our messy homes to redeem us. He comes to where we are and blesses our stains and smells. And comforts our wounds and pain. This is his story; one he used to teach and empower us do the same.
Jesus is calling us to be ministers; to put on our clerical collar and open our pastoral heart and be that bridge between heaven and earth.
We don’t need to be perfect for God to use us. We don’t need to be straight A students or go to the best schools. We just need to be more like Jesus - obedient and faithful to our calling to the best of our ability. God will do the rest.
Wherever hunger or injustice is present, we too must be present. Wherever there are sick and dying people, or captives and prisoners we are called to share our story of God’s redemptive love right there in Anamesa – in that space between the messiness of faith and life; right in the middle of it all.
May we all go with the intention to be the bridge between earthly and Divine so all lives might find true healing and peace. And so, all people can thrive in their stories as God has always desired. May we all go out and testify to God’s greatest glory – teaching the world with your heart and hand, and like St. Francis added, “Using words only when necessary.”
Let us pray:
Lord Christ, help us today to be more like you and less like ourselves. As we walk in your footsteps, may your peace guide us and follow us so others can share in your glory. Amen.
Adapted from a sermon entitled You've Been Called on October 22, 2018.
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 4. Westminster John Knox: 2009.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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