Ordination Questions: Christ’s Lordship & the Holy Spirit

August 31, 2007 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

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

On any given Sunday a visitor to the congregations I serve will hear sixty or more voices united in confession saying these words: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord… Although we certainly mean this in some sense, often I am afraid that if we’re not careful, we might miss the incredibly life-altering and subversive message that this commitment signals.

An exploration of the original context for these proclamations reveals the revolutionary nature of this commitment. The word gospel is our rendering of the Greek word euangelion, which was not only used in connection with Jesus, but was also a word used in connection with the birth of Caesar Augustus. [1] This Roman Emperor’s birth was hailed as good news because he was also seen as kyrios, which primarily is a word that refers to power and authority.[2] Salvation

in the first century Mediterranean was intimately connected to the order and rule of Rome. In this cultural milieu, the phrase, “I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord,” would have been an extremely subversive statement to make. As Anglican Bishop Tom Wright is fond of saying, it means that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not. Confessing Jesus as Lord meant placing your trust and hope in one who exhibited a completely different set of values than the prevailing wisdom of the world. From the earliest times, Christians believed that their trust in Jesus was warranted because he was in fact, “the exact imprint of God’s very being.”[3]

The practice of ministry has shown me that this continues to be an extremely difficult call to follow even after nearly two thousand years. Although the claim easily passes our lips, the reality of affirming Jesus against any other claim to our lives is often excruciating. As a clergy member, I often feel tempted to smooth the rough edges of the Gospel. When encountering a difficult passage of Scripture, my desire to be affirmed and liked is often at odds with the strong call of Jesus. Yet when I surrender my own preferences and comfort for the counter-intuitive demands of Jesus, something strange and miraculous happens.

I believe this is where the two parts of this question merge. It is by the power and work of God’s Holy Spirit that we find the energy and inspiration to live out the unique calling of Christ. By the Spirit, we are strengthened to live differently. We cannot begin to understand “losing our lives to save them,”[4] how “the last will be first,”[5] or “selling our possessions,”[6] unless we are motivated by the very Spirit of God working and moving in our midst. In my ministry, I have seen people make these difficult choices. It’s in the lives of wealthy members brokenhearted by the need in the world and motivated to share their possessions. It’s in the hard decision of a man to quit a job that conflicted with his passion for Christ’s Church. It’s in the utter love for little ones who can give nothing monetarily in return for their support and care. Each one of these acts subvert the common wisdom of our day and shout, “Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not!” By the power of the Spirit, sayings like, “he who dies with the most toys wins” and “always look out for number one” are dismantled and exposed as hollow imitations of the wholeness found in the passionate dedication to Jesus. It is only by confidence in the Spirit’s power and trust in the graceful rule of Jesus that I am able to stand in the pulpit and offer hope, love, grace, and the challenge to be the people God continues to call us to be.

 


[1] Freedman, D. N. The Anchor Bible Dictionary . (New York, Doubleday, 1996)

[2] Bauer, W., Danker, F., Arndt, W., and Gingrich, F., Greek-English Lexicon of the New

Testament and Other Early Christian Literature Third Edition.(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000)

[3] Hebrews 1:3

[4] Matthew 16:25

[5] Luke 13:30

[6] Luke 12:33

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Entry filed under: Practical Theology, Religion, Theology, United Methodist.

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