Sunday, September 04, 2005

ordination paperwork: question #3

a) Theology
3) What changes has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of (a) the Lordship of Jesus Christ? and (b) the work of the Holy Spirit?

a) Who do we say that Jesus is? In the Synoptics, we read that Jesus wants the disciples to fill him in on the gossip about himself. Who do people say that I am? The disciples give the answers, from far-fetched to hopefully speculative. But then Jesus gets to the point: Who do you say I am? It is a question that shoots from the page to our ears, demanding of us our own answer. Ultimately, Jesus was most interested in what the disciples would answer themselves, not if they could repeat the responses of others.
Who do we say Jesus is? I think we are each called to respond, and like the disciples heard, we too hear many responses today. In a recent issue of Relevant Magazine, Jason Boyett asked, “O Jesus, Who Art Thou?” He talked about our “Jesuses” - Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild, Republican Jesus, Christ Hippified, Romanticized Boyfriend Jesus, The Wild-Hearted Jesus, and, most recently, Jesus Is My Homeboy.[1] His descriptions are meant to be humorous, but also to be a sort of warning, pointing out how we have crafted Jesus into who we want him to be, instead of being shaped by Jesus.
In the practice of ministry, I’ve become more focused on my own response to Jesus’ question and on helping my congregation articulate a response for themselves. Jesus asks us to be disciples, which, from the Greek mathe^te^s, means more than ‘followers.’ It means students. Students study. Students practice and make mistakes and sometimes fail. Students know who the teacher is, and that the teach is the one with authority. Students seek to imitate the teacher. The practice of ministry has deepened my understanding of who Jesus is – our teachers, our savior, God with us, and who Jesus call us to be – his followers, his students, his disciples.

b) The Church and the Holy Spirit have a unique relationship, taking shape from the first Pentecost after the resurrection, when the promised Advocate moved among the gathered believers and enabled them to get to work.
It is this same spirit, this same Holy Breath that gives life to the church today, when we let it. In some ways, I would say that my practice of ministry has made the Holy Spirit less foreign, less strange. As much as we’ve tried our best to box God in, I also think we Christians have known less about what to ‘do’ with the Holy Spirit. But, in practicing ministry, I feel more aware of how the Spirit can and does work in our midst.
For the disciples, the Holy Spirit’s presence was what enabled them to begin the work of sharing the gospel. After Jesus was no longer physically among them, the disciples were afraid and hesitant. Would they step up and begin the work for which Jesus had been preparing them? The Holy Spirit filling them gives them the courage, the comfort, the voice to speak up and share the gospel.
I see that it is the same spirit that enables the church today. In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells the church that there are many gifts, but one spirit that activates these gifts within us. Many gifts, but one body of Christ of which we are part. How can we do the work that Christ has called us to? By God’s grace, and by the presence of the Spirit within us, we are able.
I see the Spirit as calling the church, calling us beyond our comfort zones, and enabling us to do, as the body, what we wouldn’t have believed possible. I see the spirit, dwelling within us, each one, reminding us that we are God’s and that God is within us. In this way, the Spirit truly is Comforter and Advocate, enabling us to be the Church in the world.
[1] Boyett, Jason. “O Jesus, Who Art Thou?” Relevant Magazine. July/August 2005. pg.
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