2 Corinthians 4:5-12
It is not wrong to speak this way, but I will admit it drives me nuts. I will also admit it is more of a “me problem” than anything else. It bother me to hear “My ministry” or “Your ministry.” I don’t like the terms. As if this thing we do in the church, this thing we participate in as pastors, belongs to us. As if it was merely a career. I think it is also true of our callings out in the world. “My career, my job, my occupation,” the terms bug me a little bit. As if there was not something divine going on here. As if it belonged to us. As if the end goal was you.
It’s Christ’s ministry. In a very profound way, it’s Christ’s ministry. And it is Christ’s vocations, that is your callings in the world whether they are churchy or not. It’s Christ’s work, in a very profound way, it’s Christ’s work. If this was about pastors, this would not end well for us preachers or the people we serve. What do I have to offer? Just about every pastor vacillates between two positions every time he greets his congregation. Two questions really, “Where is everybody? Have they no need for God?” and “I can’t believe anybody showed up at all. To listen to me. Again. Again! They don’t do that with anybody else, week in and week out.”
If it were up to the pastor and his talent… well I’m not quite sure anybody would get up early on a Sunday morning for that. And rightfully so. We have better things to do. But if there is something else going on here, something divine, then there is every reason to show up. This is Christ’s ministry to you and the man up front just happens to be a part of it. And it is Christ who picks up your garbage and plows the fields and changes the bed pans in the nursing home and counts the numbers for the businesses and plows the winter roads and puts out fires and defends our country and everything else and you, and you happen to be a part of this divine equation.
“For we do not preach ourselves,” Paul seemed to say out loud as he wrote about the ministry of reconciliation, we don’t preach ourselves. We preach Christ. And to remind the preacher and to remind the listener of this, he calls this ministry “fragile clay jars”. For two reasons. First, so that the attention is upon the treasure in the jar not on the jar. Who cares about a clay jar? They are cheap, they break easily, they aren’t even that nice to look at. Second, so that arrogance does not take over. Once the fragile clay jar begins to think itself an antique vase from the Ming Dynasty something is wrong. Don’t worry, something or someone will come up and remind the pastor that he’s not that great. And the attention goes back to where it belongs, hopefully, onto Christ. For it is his ministry.
I would suggest that this is true of your everyday life as well. You know one of the greatest gifts of marriage is? Being reminded that we aren’t all that… and yet… still loved. Your vocation as a spouse is divine as divine as the preacher. It is a divine equation of God loving your spouse and he happens to use you in the middle. So even though you may also be a fragile clay jar, you contain a divine treasure, the love of God meant for your spouse. And what a privilege it is to be a part of such a divine equation. It lifts you far beyond what you are worthy of and what you are capable of. For it is Christ’s love and righteousness at play here not just yours.
My ministry? Not really. It’s his ministry. And what a privilege it is to be a part of something so special. My career? My Job? Hardly. It’s God’s work and what a privilege it is to be a part of something so special. This is only true in freedom. We are freed from the debilitating worry of trying to please God. We can’t please God and we don’t have to. We are free to love in our various vocations. And when these fragile and weak clay jars that fail, crack, and shatter, God will still get his work done. It’s his work, after all.
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