You are invited to a holy priesthood. You.
Don’t feel like “priestly” material? You’re not alone; it’s normal to feel a little below the standard. Even we pastors have days when we feel more “ordinary” than “ordained.” We are all human; we are all flawed; we are all sinful. And yet… we are all invited into a holy priesthood.
This open invitation started with an entire nation of people. After God got Israel out of slavery in Egypt, God asked them to live differently for a purpose: “you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exod 19:6). Imagine: a whole kingdom of priests, ministering to the world!
But the Israelites weren’t perfect priests; they weren’t loyal to God’s covenant and laws. If we had been in their shoes the end result would have been the same, because we aren’t perfect, either. God didn’t give up, though. Christ ushered in a “new covenant.” Christ’s work created a holy people to minister to the world. That’s why we’re called to be “like living stones… built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
You are invited to a holy priesthood. You; all of you. And it’s not because of how good you are (or aren’t). It’s because of how good Jesus was and is.
It works like this.
Imagine a lineup of people, from “worst” to “best.” You can imagine whoever you want; I’ll get us started with some extremes. At the “worst” end you might have someone like Hitler. At the “best” end, someone like Mother Teresa. Imagine a few people in between. Put yourself in there somewhere. Find a place on the lineup for someone you respect a lot… and for someone you don’t like very much.
Now imagine a meter above each of their heads. That meter is their goodness level. Mother Teresa’s is really high; Hitler’s is almost nothing. How about the meters for the people you put on the lineup? How much “goodness” shows up?
Then, above all that, picture a line. It runs way above Hitler’s meter… but just a little above Mother Teresa’s as well. No one quite hits it. That line is the standard of God’s covenant – absolute obedience.
When Jesus Christ died as a perfect sacrifice, what happened is this: we are all offered the chance to be made right with God, to have that gap between our goodness and God’s standard filled. Any one of these people can accept that gift. The instant they do, the gap is filled. No matter how big the gap was to begin with, the end result is the same. All of these people end up at the same status.
Your mind might be screaming, “That’s not fair!” Honestly, it’s not. Jesus told a parable that showed the unfairness of the kingdom of God; it was about day laborers in a vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). At the end of the day, all the workers got paid the same, whether they worked from daybreak or only for the last hour. This caused those who worked all day to be upset. “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” the vineyard owner asked. “Or are you envious because I am generous?”
So there we all stand – equally justified before God. Not because of how perfect we’ve been… but because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. Which makes us equally qualified to be ministers.
That does not – thank goodness – mean we should all be wearing robes and preaching sermons. Some of us are called to ministry as our jobs. I felt that call when I was a kid; I saw the preacher preach and felt the strong (and terrifying) sense that I was supposed do that. Maybe you felt something similar as a kid: a call to be a nurse, or a teacher, or someone who fixes things. Or maybe you just happened into what you do, as life’s twists and turns presented different options. Whatever you do, you do it as God’s minister. You’re like a missionary-in-the-field. In your job, in your everyday routines, in your relationships, in your role at church – in all that you do, you are a part of this holy priesthood, representing Christ.
And what you do is important.
It might not seem that way. You might wonder what difference it really makes whether you are kind to the cashier at Ingles. Or if you really have to act like a Christ-follower at work. Or that job you’ve thought about volunteering for at church… do they really need me? Won’t someone else step up to do it?
Yes – it does matter, and you are needed, because you are a part of this holy priesthood.
It works like this, Peter says.
We are all like stones. One is more important that the others: Jesus. Jesus is the one who justifies us; he’s the one who gives us foundation. Jesus is the cornerstone, the living stone.
The rest of us are equal. We play different roles (we’ll get into that next week), but our importance is equal. In that way, we stack together like stones building a church. As more of us come together, the building becomes bigger and stronger. Each one is important.
Typically, in a building, you can take one or two away and the whole likely will not fall. Just yesterday I noticed that a brick or two had fallen off our house; that doesn’t make me worried that I might come home to a pile of rubble. But if more bricks fall out, the house will start to look rough. Eventually the integrity of the building will be compromised. Each brick is playing a part. They’re important.
We are that way, too. Jesus is the cornerstone in the Church. Jesus is the most important stone, the one that holds it up and will always hold it up. But that doesn’t make us unimportant. The more of us who are stacking together, chipping in, doing our part as God’s ministers… the stronger the building becomes.
We are a holy priesthood. We have a church to build. We each have a part to play in it, every one of us.
“What *is* my part?” you might be wondering.
Great question. Over the next few weeks we’re going to explore that. Each week I’ll offer a few questions to get us thinking about the unique way God is calling us (thanks to our friends at Clemmons UMC, who developed these surveys). This week it’s around our passions. What gets you excited? What do you love to do? What makes you righteously angry? Those feelings are important clues to how God is calling you to be a minister of Christ.
And God is – absolutely – calling YOU. No matter who you are. Because of Jesus Christ, you are equipped. Because of Jesus Christ, you are important.
Will you be a part of this holy priesthood?
- I love to….
- What drives my life?
- What is something I do that makes me “good tired” as opposed to “bad tired”?
- The needs I love to meet in another person’s life include:
- What ministries, issues or perceived needs excite or concern you the most?
- Is there a ministry or mission that keeps coming to your mind again and again?
- The cause or need I feel Jesus wants me to join him in addressing/meeting is: