Today is Monday the 19 March, in the Fifth Week of Lent
Prayer of Presence
God of love, by the power of your Spirit enlighten us to understand your truth and inspire us to do your will in the name of Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us so that we can abide in your love. Amen.
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:4-11
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!
Paul attributes his hikanoi (Gk.) – adequacy, sufficiency, or competency – for his glorious ministry of proclaiming the gospel of peace and justifying grace to God’s equipping.
Humility for his privilege of serving as Christ’s ambassador of reconciliation was a mark of Paul’s ministry. He knew that he was the last person qualified for the work of ministry. It was by God’s grace and love that he was equipped to carry the treasure of the glorious gospel of Christ within his heart and mind. Paul was always stretching the limits of language to convey how Christ’s grace sufficiently met and exceeded all his physical, spiritual and temporal needs. The best word Paul could find for the lavishness of God’s love, sufficiency, and equipping for ministry was “gift.” For Paul, everything he received from God was an unmerited gift. He knew it and he never took God’s gifts or equipping for granted.
I’ve met so many disciples of Christ who humbly deflect recognition from themselves to Christ, their Lord and Savior. All of them are quick to admit that they do not understand how or even why Christ would ever use them to bless and serve others. They admit that their success and fruitfulness is a gift from God who has equipped them. They are the ones who proclaim mew life in Christ, lift up the downtrodden, befriend the stranger, speak up for the voiceless and vulnerable, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners and then ask, “When did we see you or serve you, Lord?”
Their words and actions are infused with Christ’s power and multiplied 30, 60, 100 times more than the energy they exert or the resources they offer. They are often not even aware of all the good Christ is accomplishing through them in the world, nor do they measure or seek credit for it. As they understand it, they are simply trying to live a life worthy of their calling in the Lord.
All this reminds me of a story I once heard about a woman that went out to fetch water from a nearby water well. She carried two clay jars tied to the opposite ends of a long wooden stick laid across her neck and shoulders. She filled the jars with water from the water well and headed back home along the narrow path. One of the clay jars was cracked so almost all of the water inside of it slowly and continuously dripped out along the way back home.
The cracked pot got home almost empty, as always. On this day, the cracked pot was feeling disappointed and sad because she lost most of the water, again. The other pot said, “Don’t be disappointed. Look back along the path and see all the beautiful flowers that are growing on your side of the path. You’ve been watering these flowers – helping them to come alive and beautifully flourish – every time we are taken to be filled up with water and walked back home.
That’s the way it is with the ministry Christ calls us to. We often feel inadequate in the ministry of bringing others to know and receive the greater glory of God’s justifying grace and peace through Christ – and we should because we are inadequate. But, when God equips us, the glorious news of God’s justifying grace spills out of us through our words and actions and God’s kingdom comes to life along the paths we walk. When other people commend us for it, we can honestly say that we are not competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has equipped and made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant with God that gives life to people and the world God loves and sent his Son Jesus Christ to redeem and restore.
Questions for Reflection:
- How has God made you competent for ministry?
- When was the last time someone acknowledged you for the grace and kindness you demonstrated to them or others? Did you give the glory to God? Why or why not?
Prayer: For the grace to offer the world the glorious ministry of grace and peace (justification) with God.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33,36)