Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Call to Ministry

In the book of Judges there is a story about a “call to ministry,” or to be more accurate, about hiring a priest. That confusion still goes on today. You don’t hire a priest, you call a priest, and the call must be validated by the Holy Spirit and by your bishop. When the priest arrives he is not a hireling. If he is, you get what you’ve paid for.  

Here is the story:
This guy named Micah steals 1,000 pieces of silver from his mom, then fesses up and gives it back. She says, “Well, bless the Lord!” Then she takes 200 pieces of the silver and has an idol made and gives it to Micah? Why? I can only speculate; that ought to remind him what a twit he is. He then sets the idol up in a worship center in his house, and then hires a young itinerant Levite to be a priest. He pays him 10 pieces of silver, a suit of clothes each year, and board and room.  Then Micah says, "Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest” [Judges 17:13]. Many very faithful priests still get only 10 pieces of silver and a suit of clothes, along with modest board and room.

Now the tribe of Dan found claiming their inheritance too hard so they went looking for a place that was easy prey for their conquest. On the way they come to the house of Micah…and say to the Levite, ‘“Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?’ And the priest's heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people” [Judges 18:19-20].

Now you might think that this only happened in ancient Israel, not so my naïve Christian friend. Years ago when I was in a small diocese we called a priest to be our bishop. It turned out that he was a hireling. Six weeks after he arrived he stood in our back yard and told us that now the he was a bishop he was going to look for a larger diocese. Incredible? He became a big name in the larger Church, applied to a number of dioceses but most of them caught on. Years later his persistence paid off and he found a grander “call to ministry” in a much larger diocese.

A call to ministry comes from and God and from the people and is a two-way invitation love and be loved for both priest and people. It is a call to preach the gospel whether or not it tickles the ears of the people. It is a call to be God’s man or woman, in a particular place at a particular time. By the experience of many in ministry today it is also a call to suffer the pains of love.

Now in our diocese we have just called a good man to be bishop, and our previous man was a good man. We took care not to call a hireling; but I wonder if some will try to pay him and treat him like a hireling? Keep your bishop, your priest, and their families in your prayers and remember that they were called and not hired.

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