I love commencement season with its dual meaning. It marks both the completion and the beginning, simultaneously making a giant check on the list and creating a new checklist. With that in mind, I offer my congratulations to this year’s graduates of PESM (Pacific Evangelical School of Ministry)!
Just the other Sunday we had graduation ceremonies at our Oregon City Evangelical Church. The commencement speaker was Professor and Pastor Ryan Thorson. His message to the graduates is a message we all need to hear in ministry so I asked him to share on the blog. Enjoy…
I’d like to offer three things you to take with you from this sacred moment into the ministry and future God is leading you towards. These three things are phrases and concepts that have been meaningful to me in my ministry thus far and are things I continue to seek after and shape my day to day life and ministry around.
The first thing is to “Keep the Sabbath”. We live in a world where busy-ness is worn with a badge of honor. The more meetings we have and responsibilities to perform, the more important we can feel. Sabbath is the weekly anchor that ties us to Rock of who Christ has called us to be. Our family keeps the Sabbath on Friday nights with waffles and whip cream. Mostly whip cream. I want my kids to grow up salivating when they hear the word Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath reminds us that God is at work even when we are not. Keeping the Sabbath reminds us that we are human be-ings, not human do-ings and our worth is found first and foremost as children of God and not found in what we can produce. Keeping the Sabbath enables us to embrace the gift of limits and rest in the yoke that Christ so desperately longs to bestow upon us. Keep the Sabbath.
My second invitation is to steward the sacred. One of the greatest privileges as a pastor and minister of the gospel of Christ is that people invite you into the sacred moments of their lives. It might be the moment of baptism or holy communion, a baby dedication or wedding ceremony. The Sacred moment can also be the death of a loved one, the crumbling of a marriage or the desperate plea in the midst of depression or anxiety. The sacred moments aren’t always the happy ones. They are vulnerable, messy and complicated. But nevertheless, people recognize that somehow, in some way, God has uniquely called you to stand beside them in these sacred moments in their lives, and they trust you to properly steward those moments. But the sacred moments aren’t always the big ones. You can also steward the sacred by pointing out the holy mundane. It may be difficult for people who are confronted with bills to pay, babies to change, lawns to mow and meals to cook to recognize God in the everyday moments of their lives. Steward the sacred by pointing out to them that God is present in the middle of the night when their child is screaming. God is present when they are mopping the floor. We are given the privilege of walking alongside people in the everyday moments of their lives and pointing out the beauty of “God with us”. Steward the Sacred.
Third, as we keep the Sabbath and steward the sacred, we must also practice Resurrection. Jesus reminds us that, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” According to Jesus, your most effective growth strategy is to die. To lose your life daily as you pick up your cross and follow Jesus. This is the key to real, lasting life. Jesus insists, and models for us, that embracing the cross and forsaking the value system of the world is where we will find meaning and salvation for our souls. If Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and we are followers of Jesus, than we too will be confronted daily with the powers of death and decay. The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that if want to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection, we must participate in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, attain to the resurrection from the dead. To practice Resurrection we must embrace the death of things in our life and ministry because there is no resurrection without death. Hopes and dreams may die, ministries may die, churches you pastor may die, people will die or at least leave your church or ministry. But because of the Resurrection, death is not the end of the story. When we practice Resurrection we wait with expectation for God to bring things back to life. Not resuscitate them to the way they used to be but to transform with resurrection power to the way they ought to be. When we practice Resurrection, we speak life and hope into things that seem dormant, that seem lifeless and beyond repair, because we serve a God who walked out of a sealed and guarded tomb. The upside down absurdity of the cross and resurrection life leaves the rulers and authorities of darkness powerless to prevent the Resurrection of Christ from piercing the strongholds of the old creation so that we can participate with God in the ongoing revolution and restoration of the world He loves and He died for. Practice Resurrection.
I believe that if you seek to live out these three concepts: To keep the Sabbath, steward the sacred and practice resurrection, your life and your ministry will be fuller and more effective for the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Before You Go…
The call to ministry is one for all of us: vocational pastor and lay leader alike. So how have you found this to be true in your own areas of ministry? How will implementing these three ideas change your experience?