UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Praying for One AnotherThe Rev. Dan Dick (left) and Lisa King, delegates from the Wisconsin Annual Conference, pray together during evening worship at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla.
"The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love." -- Ephesians 4:11-16 (NRSV*)
Forget any thoughts that you might identify with labels such as "Liberal," "Conservative," "Fundamentalism," "Progressive," "Literalism," "Pentecostal," "Adventist" ...
Forget the labels, for in the long run of things they are just that: labels.
There's not one single person on the face of this planet who can identify themselves with one of these labels and be consistent. For, in the long run of things, each of us is way too complex to be any one of those things, or any other label you might come with, unless it is the label "Dead" or "Alive." And then I'm not always sure who is "dead" or "alive." Some people are more alive than dead. Some people are more dead than alive!
So, put the labels aside because in the long and short of it, they don't work.
None of us, no one is purely one or the other. And no one can be "all that!" We can be some of "all that" but not "all that!" If we think we are "all that" we deceive ourselves. We are egotists. We think we can do it all, for all, be all. It's a lie.
Just take a look at the regimes that have fallen over the past thousands of years.
Are Pharaohs around? They tried to be all that, then and there and beyond. They're dead!
Is Hitler around? He tried to be all that!
Is King Henry VIII around? A survivor. He's quite dead, as is his thinking!
Even, some people in the Bible who tried to be "all that." Are they around? Are they listened to? Is everything they preached and taught and lived followed?
David thought he was "all that" when he had a little moment with Bathsheba. Produced a child. Destroyed her marriage. Got her husband killed off. David's "all-thatness" went the way of oblivion. He eventually confessed and went public in a psalm, "Create in me a clean heart, O God." David ain't all that!
Nor is any one of us.
Not one of us can claim to be "all that" although we try.
We try, don't' we, by thinking we can do no wrong.
We try, don't we, by attempting to control everything and everyone around us.
Btu, when you come right down to it, not one of us is "all that" either.
Because not one of us came be all, do all, become the whole for the parts.
This scripture from the Jan. 21 lectionary readings is one of my favorites. Why? Because, for me, it describes what the people of God, and any organization, is all about. For me, it relieves me of being "all that." For me, it allows me to be "all that I am meant and destined to be" and allows others to be "all that they are destined and meant to be"
And in that happening … together … we become all that we are supposed to be.
Together … .
The pundits whined about our President's inaugural speech. "It was solidly Liberal" say the commentators. But they missed the point.
More importantly, it was about being together and being all that we can be, together.
And the same is true of the Church. Together, with each person discovering his or her own gifts, abilities, graces, together, the church happens. We are truly only the church, the people of God, when together, with each person bringing their unique and sole ability, roll, gift to the table, it is only together with each one doing what they are called and supposed to do that any organism, church, group becomes what it is supposed to be and do.
That cannot be dictated or done by one person. That can only happen when each is taught, equipped, empowered, allowed to do and be what they are called to do and be.
Together, the reading from Ephesians reminds us. The divine is the head of the church, the organism. And every part, when allowed, under that metaphor, when it functions, makes the church into a complete whole, together.
There is no church on the face of the earth, until it is the church together of liberals, conservatives, fundamentalists, prejudiced, not prejudiced, literalists, and so on, and so on. No one has a corner on the market called ministry, church, thought. We, each of us, are all just players under the One who teaches each of us what our individual part is to play and how to play it.
I am one of the many ministers amongst many other ministers in the life of the congregation where I worship. If each in that congregation, and any other congregation, believes it, then we will see and hear great and wonderful things happening throughout the congregation and into the world.
Go back to the scripture at the top. Read it carefully. Digest it. Find your place in the plan. Together, let's be God's people, each doing in ministry.
The Rev. Thomas L. Shanklin is a retired clergy member of the New England Annual Conference.
*New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, copyright 1989 by the Christian Education Committee of the National Council of Churches, USA. Used by permission.