Ministry of Service
I recently reread ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren and also read for the first time a book by Henri J.M. Nouwen entitled In The Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. Both books have led me pondering on ‘What on earth am I here for?
Henri Nouwen says a number of things in his book that are well worth contemplating but I found the following quote especially encouraging.
“We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.” (pp. 62, 63)
On reflecting on this quote, I was actually encouraged as it freed me from unrealistic expectation that I place on myself.
Whilst I firmly believe that we are called to a ministry of service to others, I am now mindful that I not responsible for results and outcomes of this service and also there are limitations in my ability to serve. As Nouwen reminds us, we are all just “sinful, broken, vulnerable people who have to work within the limits of being human. Every so often we need to be reminded of that fact.
We are human. We are not God. We serve as a finite human being which means that there are limits to what we can actually do. We have physical limitations, we get tired. We have emotional limitations, we get frustrated and lose patience from time to time. We can worry and lose confidence in our capacity to meet our expectations and expectations of others.
Whilst perhaps difficult to accept this is called “being human” and we have to give ourselves the freedom to be human without condemning ourselves for being less than ‘perfect’.
The good news is that while we are human with all that that entails, we are unconditionally loved by our gracious and loving God. His son Jesus was the ultimate servant, who served us through giving His life so that we might live.
St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, 2:10 says “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.”
Despite my human limitations, this doesn’t stop my intention to serve in every possible way in the different vocations in my life. In my vocation to my family; as partner to Dianne, father and father in-law to Evie and Tom and pappa to Norah; brother to my siblings and uncle to nephews and nieces. In my professional vocation as an educator and leader in Lutheran education. In my vocation as a friend and neighbour. Through my service in each of these vocations, I am involved in ministry. This is a noble cause. Likewise you are each called to serve in your various vocations in life.
The past few years have been challenging, no more so than for every one of you as leaders in our learning communities. I encourage you to build a team of people around you that you can lean on when times get tough. If there is one thing that I have come to realise throughout the recent past, it is that God never intended us to do ministry alone.