Skip to main content

weak + strong

I am back at home after 8 days of vacation in Manitoba with family.  It was a great change of pace.  I wouldn't call it a time of rest, exactly, because there was a lot of activity happening (family events and outings almost every day) and I also spoke at church meetings twice.  It is always a privilege to address a group of people gathered together to engage with God and with each other, but it also requires a lot of thought and effort on my part.  And it should.  Being in the position of a teacher is one of the greatest burdens and highest joys I know.

Just over a week ago I spoke at a church in Ottawa.  I was still recovering from a bad case of food poisoning and due to this, considered cancelling the engagement or passing the task on to Dean.  But when I took the time to listen to God, it became clear that he loves my weakness - that place where I realize I must depend totally on him for strength.  Here are a few thoughts from that talk in Ottawa which I entitled:  Unscrambling My Ministry.

The term "my ministry" often leaves us puzzled.  What exactly is it?  Do I really have one?  What am I supposed to do to serve the church?  Ministry simply means "a person or agent through whom something is accomplished."  If I were to explain it, I would say that "my ministry" is actually the ministry of Jesus (doing what he initiates) that I do through Jesus (relying on his strength) for Jesus (serving and loving him in all I do). 

In my experience, I have found that there is a winning combination (not in the sense that I win anything, really, but you know what I mean) that positions me closer to the ministry of Jesus.  This happens when a few key elements come together. 

1.  The first one is when my love and compassion exceed my capacity to deliver on them.  When I open my heart to God and to the world around me, I often feel moved to help someone, or find myself filled with love for someone.  At the same time, I am lost as to what to do about it practically.  This gift of love or compassion means that I am in some small way recognizing and receiving the rich love and grace of God present all around me.  I have opened my heart.  I have opened my hands.  I am no longer keeping people at a distance, afraid of getting hurt.  I am joining myself with God's desire and Jesus' prayer to be one with those around me.  But what do I do about it?

2.  The second element is to join this compassion with the weakness always present in me.  It is embracing humility. I felt ill-equipped to speak to the people in the church in Ottawa, but my desire to give them a gift and to bless them outweighed my desire to impress them with my oratory skills.  I decided to let my weakness be the place where God could show himself stronger and more capable than anything I could come up with.  Humility.  Honesty.  Honour.  My responsibility was not to give them the greatest sermon ever, but to honour God and be present generously with them. In fact, the times I stumbled over my words and lost my train of thought illustrated that without the generous spirit of Jesus, there was not much I had to offer.  Will I rely on God to bring what I lack?  Can I bring what little I have and let my weakness show?  Can I put myself out there with my limited love and trust that God will make something out of it?  Yes, I have to risk this.  Over and over, I must put myself in this vulnerable position.

3.  The "my" part of ministry is simply the time and place and space that I dwell in.  No one else can occupy my space on this earth - physically, intellectually, emotionally.  Only I can be present to all the situations and relationships that I live through.  This is uniquely my ministry, my place to serve, to love, and to accomplish what Jesus has initiated.  No one else can take this place, so no matter how inadequate or under-prepared I feel, my weak attempts to love others and serve Jesus in my work, my home, my school, my comings and goings, my hobbies, and my neighbourhood are better than the void that would be left if I did nothing. What am I already doing?  Where is Jesus present in this?

Weakness is not a limitation nor an excuse to get out of ministry.  It is the place where my ministry meets Jesus' ministry, and I get to exchange my fear and inadequacy for his strength and ability.  Listen to what Paul has to say about it:

...so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, The Message).

   
The photo: Taken at the picnic we had with the group in Ottawa on Sunday afternoon:  here is one person from Montreal and one from Ottawa sharing a moment.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

what does the cross mean?

Words which we use a lot can sometimes become divested of their depth of meaning. In the Christian tradition, we talk about the cross a lot. We see visual representations of the cross in prominent places in our gathering spaces, we wear crosses around our necks, some get crosses tattooed on their bodies. The cross is a ubiquitous symbol in Christianity, so lately I have been asking myself, what exactly does the cross mean? For the most part, the cross as portrayed in contemporary Christianity is a beautiful thing, festooned with flowers and sunsets and radiant beams of light (just google cross or cross coloring page). But in the first century, the cross was a symbol of disgrace. To the Roman empire, this ignoble instrument of death was for those who were traitors and enemies of the state. We are many centuries removed from this view of the cross as the locus of torture and death and shame. The fact that Christianity has made the cross a symbol of hope and beauty is a good thing, but p…

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…