I realized last night how important it is for me to attend ordination services – not just to support and pray for the men and women being ordained, but also to remind myself of what my ministry is all about, and to remember those promises I made. It’s not an entirely comfortable experience, but it’s a necessary one, I think.
However, it’s not only important for me; it’s important for lay people too. The ordination service includes a few real gems about the ministries of all Christian people. Here’s an example:
The Church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world. (Book of Alternative Services, p.646)
I’m going to focus in on the second sentence: ‘All baptized people…’. There are tasks which have been given to the whole Church and to every member of it. Not just stuff like loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbour as yourself, or living by the teaching of Jesus, vital though these things are. No – the whole Church is also entrusted with ministry tasks – the call to use our gifts to further the work of God in the world. These aren’t just the task of ordained pastors and priests; they are the tasks of ‘all baptized people’.
What are they? ‘To make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world’.
‘To share in the renewing of his world’ is the big picture: it corresponds to ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’ in the Lord’s Prayer. We all recognize that the world as we know it is sick and in need of healing; this is so obvious that there is absolutely no need to explain or explore it. But it is vital to see that God calls every follower of Jesus to take part in that healing, or ‘renewing’ as the ordination service calls it. Whatever gifts and talents we have, in whatever situation in life we find ourselves, we’re called to place ourselves at God’s disposal and work tirelessly for the renewing of his world – whether it’s by doing business honestly and compassionately, or working to protect the planet from environmental disaster, or giving generously to organizations that work to improve the lives of the poor, or volunteering at a food bank – or a thousand other ways of ‘renewing God’s world’. Are you good at doing something? T chances are good that God can use your gift to make a difference.
Anglicans tend to really like this part; ‘good works’ (in the best sense of that term, see Ephesians 2:10) are a part of our DNA! But the other part is one we’re not so keen on: ‘To make Christ known as Saviour and Lord’. This is about spoken witness; all baptized people are called to spread the gospel of Jesus and to invite other people to become his followers. It’s not just the job of the clergy (indeed, I can tell you for a fact that most clergy, even after seven years of training, have received little or no instruction in the art of witness or evangelism). Anyway, clergy are generally badly placed to do this, as their work encourages them to live in a Christian ‘bubble’. Lay people, on the other hand, usually have a circle of friends, family and fellow-workers that includes many people who are not Christians. If we can get over our fears, relax, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and open our mouths – well, the potential for the spread of the gospel is enormous!
I’m going to blog about some other parts of the ordination service in the coming days, and the focus will mainly be on the work of pastors and priests. But I wanted to start here, because this includes all Christian people: ‘All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world’. Right: let’s get on with it, then!