Did you know that if you are a Christian believer, you are a minister? Yep. How about… a saint? That too. Priest? Check. Missionary? Affirmative. Called, ordained and chosen by God? Ding ding, that's correct!
Then why is it that over the generations, we've somehow elevated above our regular selves those people who are in church-related professions? Why are missionaries put on a pedestal? What's the fuss about election to sainthood and all that?
If we take a good, hard look through the Bible, we may be surprised about what we find it says about each one of us normal, everyday followers of Jesus. (And why our pastors at First Baptist, Cranbrook rightly put themselves in the very same boat with the rest of us.)
The fact is, there is no secret society, no chosen few, no elite club of "others" that has some special access to God or particular favour from God. Not even those of us who are elders of First Baptist Church! It's true that too few choose to follow Christ, but when God looks our way, there's no discrimination between rich and poor, young and old, male and female, educated or not. And that includes ministers, missionaries, authors, evangelists and for that matter, Mother Theresa.
It doesn't matter what you have or haven't done, where you grew up, who your parents are or whether you even know who they are, what your ethnic background is or which side of the tracks you live on. We're all the same. And we all have the same degree of purpose and place in God's kingdom. My role in the church is just as important as yours, and your role is just as important as Billy Graham's.
Check it out. It's very clear.
The apostle Peter's first letter to the early Christian church says this: "You (yes, that's you) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." Throughout the letter to the Hebrews, the only high priest that is singled out is Jesus himself. We are all co-priests with him. This gives each of us a pretty special place in the church, doesn't it? It also clears up the idea that some are elevated closer to God than others.
This is both good news and a great challenge to each of us. For with this privileged status comes responsibility. God has work for us to do, each one of us. But we're encouraged to serve out of thanksgiving, not obligation! And God has also equipped and gifted each of us uniquely to play this role. Some are elbows, some are fingers, some are ears and some are feet in the body of Christ.
And what about this whole saints thing? That's unfortunately become clouded over the centuries. It's really simple: saints are "holy ones". I know because I asked my very smart friend who is a Greek and Classics scholar.
Here's a little schoolwork for the week… in the original Greek texts, the word is hagioi. It means "holy ones", and Paul uses it regularly to refer to all those in the churches! -- God's chosen people. The translation "saints" is unfortunate because of what the institutionalized church has done with that word. Yes, we are all considered saints, even if our behaviour doesn't measure up all the time. Nothing to do with playing harps or being canonized!
We are holy because we are God's, and we will be holy in completeness and fullness one day. This is hard to grasp, yet it is clearly laid out in the Bible.
So there you go. You are God's child, God's priest, God's minister, God's saint. And only the Holy Spirit can help our minds begin to grasp this or enable us to live it out in our church and community. Let's pray that we do.
Lord, help us to understand how valued and enabled every one of us is in your sight. Amen.