Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Isaiah 6:1–8; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 & Luke 5:1–11
What do you understand the term ministry to mean? Do you believe that you have a ministry of your own?
If you Google the meaning of ministry, you’ll find there’s more than one definition. I actually like the following definition that I read on Wikipedia: “In Christianity, ministry is an activity carried out by Christians to express or spread their faith, the prototype being the Great Commission”. The Great Commission is a reference to Matthew 28:18–20 when Jesus says to the eleven apostles, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Wikipedia goes on to say that the Encyclopedia of Christianity defines ministry as “carrying forth Christ‘s mission in the world”, indicating that it is “conferred on each Christian in baptism.” It is conferred on each Christian in baptism. This suggests that every one of us here this morning does have a ministry of our own. How do you feel about that? How do you think you might be “carrying forth Christ’s mission in the world”?
If you’re thinking to yourself that you’re not worthy or capable of carrying forth Christ’s mission in the world, then you’re in good company, because as we heard in our readings this morning, the prophet Isaiah, the Apostle Paul, and Simon Peter, each declared themselves unworthy. Isaiah said that he was “a man of unclean lips” who lived among a people of unclean lips. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, proclaimed that he was “the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle”, and Simon Peter declared to Jesus that he was a “sinful man” who was unworthy to be in the presence of Jesus.
Jesus responds to Simon Peter by telling him “not to be afraid”, and that “from now on you will be catching people” instead of fish. A seraph, having touched Isaiah’s lips with a burning hot coal, tells Isaiah that his sin has been “blotted out”. Paul sums it up beautifully when he says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am”. Neither Isaiah, Paul or Simon Peter were perfect. After all, they were human beings, complete with human frailty and failings. But God called each of them to perform a ministry in His name and, importantly, by His grace, He equipped them with what they needed in order to successfully carry out that ministry.
What might your own personal ministry be? You might be thinking to yourself that you don’t have a ministry that you perform. Here are but a few types of ministry that people are already performing here at St Andrew’s: being on the front door of the church on a Sunday morning to welcome people into the church; reading the lessons in church on Sunday morning; doing the intercessions on Sunday morning; preparing the flowers in the church for Sunday morning; cleaning the brass; cleaning the linen; mowing the lawns; serving morning tea; bringing food for morning tea and the monthly parish BBQ; working on a stall at the fete or a pop up market; volunteering at the Bunnings sausage sizzle; volunteering at Mainly Music; volunteering at Arcadia Aged Care or another aged care facility; participating in Spiritual Cafe and Bible Study; taking part in one of the parish social groups such as Thursday Guild, MSG and the Men’s Tea; or serving on Parish Council, or as a Churchwarden.
These are all forms of ministry, because each of them is “carrying forth Christ’s mission in the world”. However you shouldn’t think that if you’re not involved in one of these activities then you mustn’t be performing ministry, because anything we do that bears witness to Jesus in the world is an act of ministry. Just coming to church on a Sunday morning is an act of ministry, because in doing so we are making a public proclamation of our faith and belief. Talking with family and friends about our faith is carrying forth Christ’s mission in the world. We are making Jesus (and God) known to others.
In the words of the “post Communion” prayer, which I’ll read a little later in the service, we are encouraged to bring the “light of Jesus to those who dwell in darkness”, and in the words of the final blessing of today’s service it is hoped that our “lives will be a light to the world”. Just by living our lives in accordance with the teaching of Jesus, that is, by treating others with compassion, respect and humility, we are revealing the light of Jesus to others.
And we needn’t worry that we are unworthy or incapable of doing this, because as the Apostle Paul said, the grace of God is with us, and Jesus himself told us in the Great Commissioning that he will be with us always, to the end of the age.