We are all priest,
Today I am so blessed to have Darlene and her husband Jon here with us for worship today. She and I met years ago at summer camp in Florida. I can’t remember if I was 12 or 13 when I stopped going to Camp Immokalee, but thanks to Facebook...here we are.
This past January, Darlene and I met for lunch when they were out here on a business trip. While we had about four decades of life to catch up on, Darlene just side-stepped the past and jump into the present. She wanted to know my story about how I left my career in advertising to answer my call for ministry.
Her inquiry shifted the tone of our entire lunch. And also forged an amazing friendship; one based not on the past but on the present…which of course takes us into the future. We all have a calling in life – a story to share.
When I read this passage in Hebrews I was connected with another person from my childhood. Bob Walkup was my pastor growing up. I spoke with him as I was first discerning my call into ministry. I can still hear his gentle, soft-spoken southern voice telling me, “Ian, you’ve always been a minister.” Hearing that made me feel special, like I was called by God for a higher purpose.
It wasn’t until I was working on today’s message, that I fully grasped what Bob was telling me. I realized I’m no different than any of you – not by God’s standard. We are all priest, called for a purpose.
This priestly description in Hebrews is about all of us as much as it is about Jesus. You might not like hearing that. After all, who would want to be in charge of the things pertaining to God…especially on behalf of people who are ignorant and wayward?
My job might be to do the daily things “pertaining to God.” But as Christ bearers, we all share in the task of praying for one another, forgiving each others sins, and caring for the least of these our brothers and sisters. We are all priests, called for a purpose.
So where do we begin to be what we are called to be? How can we live up to not just our faith but up to our potential to change the world with it? Today’s scripture outlines three paths we must walk down as the priesthood of all believers. They are: call, humility, and obedience.
I was 13 when I first discovered my call to ministry. But being afraid and unsure, I didn’t fully accept it until I was well into my 40’s. Although I faithfully believed in God’s unconditional love, I didn’t always believe I was good enough to receive it…muchless be it. But if God chooses to work through us then I reckon that our imperfections are perfect.
I know my ministry is more than a job or a career, it’s something I have to do whether I’m getting paid or not. It’s a higher purpose in life that leads to do things beyond my own selfish needs. This call is vital part of my identity and values, and often demands great sacrifice to live up to it’s potential.
As Christ bearers, our call is to continue Jesus’ ministry – to proclaim the good news of God’s redemptive love for all people – even if it means making a sacrifice. And the way we do it is by living out God’s love in the world just as Jesus did– with humbleness and grace.
This week a man told me a story about how he was helping a Vietnam Vet deal with PTSD. He said all he really doesn’t do much but listen and offers a safe space to talk and cry. Do you think he knew he was living up to his call to be like Christ who said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all, and servant of all.”
We who follow Christ and bear his name on our hearts are more than the people in the pews. We’re the pastors who listen and comfort, the priests who forgive, and the ministers who show grace upon grace, just as God has shown it to each one of us. We must humble ourselves so others can receive God’s love.
Jesus taught us how to exercise great humility when he came to us and endured our pain, experienced our weakness, and suffered us with us, not for us.
If you are familiar with the gospel stories, you might recall Jesus didn’t spend his time in the temple with the High Priest offering sacrifices on our behalf. Instead Jesus walked on our dirty streets and entered our messy homes. He came to where we were, and blessed our stains and smells. And comforted our wounds and pain. Sober or stoned, Jesus was and is there with us; loving us no matter what. And loving us that much more that he would do whatever it took to get us out of where we were and into where he was.
More than the fulfillment of God’s promise to the world, Jesus taught us how to love and be servants to all; how to be obedient to God’s will and not our own. Jesus is the literal meaning of the word “priest” – the “bridge” that links God’s desire and our needs.
Jesus challenges us to put on our clerical collar and open up our pastoral heart –whether we think we’re good enough or not. We don’t need to be perfect for God to use us. At our baptism we too were ordained and appointed by the One who hovered over the muddy waters of the Jordan River and declared, “You are my beloved child, today I have begotten you.”
By this same Spirit, we receive the same power, vision and grace as Jesus did. We have all that we need to be bridges for God’s shalom to move throughout all creation. But will we be obedient to this call? Will we humble ourselves or make the sacrifice?
It’s not as hard as some might make it to be. The priesthood that Jesus models for us is not set on a throne, or at a pulpit. It’s here and there and everywhere we’re at. It’s here, in the midst and middle of life, where we are most present. Jesus tells us not dwell in the past or worry about the future, because there’s work to be done now.
We are called to be priest, to be bridges in the midst and middle of broken homes and relationships. We are called to be God’s love in the midst and middle of conflicts and crisis.
Wherever hunger or injustice is present, wherever there are sick and dying people, or captives and prisoners...there we are called to be…right in the middle of it all. A bridge between God and others so all lives might find true healing and peace. And thrive in all of life as God has always desired.
By God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we have been called and chosen and claimed to be one with Christ, and one with each other in his name.
We are the church, the people and her priests. We are God’s living sanctuary for all who are in need of refuge, forgiveness, mercy and grace. By the love that has been given to us by God through Christ Jesus, we possess all that we need to share that with everyone whom we share this sacred space called life.
If we are to call ourselves Christians, then we must answer the call to be like Christ, and to bear Christ’s likeness with our heads, our hearts, and hands as well.
To borrow from Marshall McLuhan who famously said, “The medium is the message” I am challenging you this week to be the medium by which God’s message moves throughout all of creation.
Let us now go and be just that…human billboards advertising God’s love in the world. See how God uses our past to bring about glory in the present!
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 4. Westminster John Knox: 2009. pp. 182-186.