|Friends by Liz Lemon Swindle |
(used with permission)
Christological pattern for ministryWhat does our participation in ministry with Jesus look like in "the trenches." Purves first notes that ministry is gospel---rather than an obligation, it is a gift we live out in a Christological pattern. Understanding this is vital, for as Purves notes, "Christological specificity is required to take us beyond either pragmatic or ecclesial practice models of pastoral work" (p. 44). Ministry is not fundamentally about pragmatic models (no matter how "effective"), but about real sharing with Jesus in accord with the patterns of what he actually is doing, by the Spirit, in our world.
Jesus: God's word to man and man's obedient response to GodFundamental to understanding these patterns is a recognition that Jesus comes to us both as God's saving Word to humankind (gospel); and humankind's perfect, obedient response to that Word (ministry). With that reality in mind, we can then grasp the truth that the Holy Spirit enables us to participate in this twofold ministry of Jesus: "The church's ministry is inherently an apostolic and priestly ministry because it is a sharing in Christ's ministry," (p. 45), which is both apostolic and priestly (see Hebrews 3:1). When Jesus says to us that he is "the way, and the truth, and the life" he has in mind not only faith and piety, but also ministry, "For it is in union with Christ that we can walk the way, know the truth, and live the life of those who serve in the name of Christ" (p. 45).
It's vital that in approaching ministry we not throw ourselves, and those we mentor and supervise, "back on themselves" by failing to understand that as ministers of Jesus we do not heal the sick, forgive sin, raise the dead or even comfort the bereaved. Jesus is the one who accomplishes these ministries through his word (proclamation) and his acts. Our calling is to be actively present with him in the lives of others as he accomplishes his gospel-shaped ministry.
Purves then proceeds to examine various tasks of pastoral ministry from this vital, realist perspective. He does so by reminding us to look to "what it is that the Spirit of the risen Christ actually affects in and through the church at the point of the exercise of his priesthood." That priesthood has ministries that are both diaconal (diakonia) and eucharistic (eucharistia).
|Jesus Washing Peter's Feet by Ford Maddox Brown |
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Eucharistic ministryJesus' eucharistic ministry is seen most clearly in the Lord's Supper (the Eucharist) where Christ comes to us in both word and in the elements, "bringing God to the people" and taking "the sacrifice of praise and in his own name... offering it as rational worship to God (Romans 12:2)." Purves continues: "In the Eucharist Christ is truly present with his people and by the Spirit binds them to himself in bread and wine and to his priestly self-offering to the Father" (p. 100).
As those who officiate (preside) at the Table, we do so knowing Jesus is truly present---he is the host (not we), and we, as officiants, are ministering to the people of God alongside him. To serve well with Christ at his Table certainly requires that we be appropriately called and suitably trained, but that service as an officiant is not one exclusive to a certain class of Christians as though they were the ones in control of the Table in Christ's absence. Purves comments:
No one by virtue of gender or race can be excluded from sharing in Christ's ministry, eucharistic or diaconal. The limiting of eucharistic ministries to men only is a deep and sinful violation of Christ's encompassing and inclusive priesthood given for all in incarnation and atonement. (p. 102)Next time we'll take a look at other aspects of the ongoing ministry (mission) of Christ to which we are called and equipped by the Spirit for active participation with Jesus in the world.