Furthermore, the former
priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from
continuing in office; 24but he holds his priesthood permanently,
because he continues for ever. 25Consequently he is able for all time
to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to
make intercession for them.
26 For it was
fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless,
undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
27Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices
day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the
people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28For the
law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but
the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son
who has been made perfect for ever.
Now we don't use the word 'priest' very
often in our church, do we? We don't call our ministers 'Priest',
in a very nice way. Maybe if we're upset with them we might, but
in our church we really haven't emphasized the role of ministry or
minister with the word Priest. It has some pretty special meanings
and connotations in the old Old Testament, and still does to a lot of
church people today.
Christ as a High Priest is similar to
last week's scripture. If I repeat anything Dan said, don't worry,
because repetition is good for the soul. It's good for
learning. I also want to apologize as I don't have a PowerPoint
like Dan, using all these pictures and graphs and different things in
some of his sermons. I don't have any PowerPoint, I guess I'm from
the old school. So you'll just have to listen to me for the next
few minutes J.
Anyway, I'd like to share with you a
little bit this morning. As I think Eliza said last Sunday, the
Christian Church Disciples of Christ historically has a week in which
they emphasize and set aside every October. It's not quite as
strong as it used to be, in terms of its emphasis, a week called the
"Week of the Ministry". And in this ministry, the church
brings this to us to help us to think about ministry, and think about
our minister, and to have an opportunity to express appreciation and
affirmation for what our minister and our ministries do on our behalf,
and on behalf of God in their life. And also to explore whether we
are adequately affirming them and compensating them for the work that
they do on our behalf on and on behalf of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
It's interesting, because the pension
fund of the Christian Church has been one of the major stalwarts in this
week. They're the ones that have been putting out a lot of the
literature and bringing materials to the congregation to help us
celebrate the week of the ministry. One of the reasons they do
that is because the pension fund is concerned about financial
compensation for our ministers in our churches, and helping our churches
to say 'hey, we ought to be supporting our ministers adequately'.
The pension fund has had a program, they still have a very active
program, in taking offerings -- usually from other ministers -- to help
ministers that retire that had very low salaries, very low income as
ministers and missionaries, and so we have to supplement their
pension. And that kind of tells a story of how we've paid our
ministers over the years. It was pretty low, and ministers in our
church have never quite taken a vow of poverty, but they've been kind of
kept pretty close to that level.
We were compensated in a variety of
ways. I remember one time when I was pastor of a church back in
Indiana, and we had a long gravel driveway. At a meeting one night
one of the leaders in the church asked me if I liked chicken. And
I said 'Yeah, I like chicken'. And so the next morning I was
sleeping in my bedroom with the window open, about 4:00 a.m. in the
morning, I heard a car drive up the driveway, the door open and
closed. A few minutes later, the door opened and closed again and
the car backed out of the driveway. And so when I got up that
morning, I went to the back door and opened that back door, and there in
the breezeway there was a gunny-sack flopping around. And I
discovered there was a live chicken in that gunny-sack! That's one
of the ways our people used to compensate our ministers, was from the
gardens and the chicken coop and things like that. They felt like
that was very, very helpful to our ministers.
But our ministers also bought into, you
know, low income themselves, I'm guilty of it myself (confessing here),
that is that ministers were often the first to sacrifice themselves when
it came to finances. What they would do, is when the budget-making
time came along in the church and the budget was tight, the minister
would say 'Well, you really don't need to give me a raise next year,
that'll help the budget'. And that really did help the budget in a
lot of ways, but ministers are really guilty of doing things like that
over the years.
Today, we're doing a little
better. But we still need to have a Week of Ministry with an
emphasis on our clergy and our ministers, but we want to do it with a
little different focus this morning if we can. As we think about
ministry today, I'd like for us to lift up one of the main principles
that historically the Christian Church has held up and lived by over the
years, and that is the concept which is embodied in this little phrase
called 'priesthood of all believers'.
A priesthood of all believers has been
kind of a hallmark, historically, in our church. One of the ways
we interpreted that was that pastors don't have any special place, but
there's an equity between our ordained clergy and all of us, the laity
in the pews, the laity of the congregation. There's an equity
there and ministers don't have any more authority or power than anybody
else in the church. They have a special role in their calling, to
perform and so forth, but it doesn't make them any smarter or better or
any more worthy in any way. And one of the things that's helped to
do is to keep a low image of our ministry sometimes. On the other
hand, its helped us to have the emphasis and our people really believed
that was true.
In the early days, the Christian Church
didn't even have clergy. When we started out, we just had lay
people. The Elders ruled the congregation and evangelists went out
and started churches but they didn't have ministers for the
churches. So we sort of grew into having clergy every Sunday, and
grew into having pastors -- that sort of evolved, and in that evolution
this emphasis of a priesthood of all believers has been very strong.
And its been characterized by simple
little things -- for example, how many clergy in the Christian Church
have you seen with a clerical collar? Wearing a pulpit robe, like
Dan does at the 11:00 [traditional] service is really a fairly modern
phenomenon in the Christian Church -- they wouldn't wear robes in the
pulpit because that would distinguish them. And the concern was
that we wouldn't distinguish between pastor and people, and anything
that would separate us apart would help to make it un-equitable and on
the same playing level, so that we didn't see people in that unique or
very different way. And that was I think a good thing.
In a real way, what we were saying was
that lay people could do anything a minister could do. Or, maybe
to put that in a little more positive vein, we could say we're all
ministers. Each with special gifts and our own callings.
If we think about our pastor Dan, and
our clergy, think about how they are called out and called to this
ministry in a special way. I think in this ministry there's
several things that distinguish the calling of a pastor. One
thing, for example, our pastors are called to be prophets. To
speak the truth. Dan does that, doesn't he? In a very real
way, he's one of our real wonderful prophets in our church and in our
community. I think another calling that distinguishes the pastor
is the fact that a pastor is a priest. A priest in the sense that
he is passionate, he is concerned for every person in the congregation
and in the community. He seeks to have a presence with people in
their joys and in their sorrow and in their troubles. The pastor
is one who is committed to keeping confidences under the parishioners,
and one who is committed to uplifting everyone in prayer and concern
At the same time, a minister is not
only called to be a prophet and a priest but a teacher. Especially
with the scriptures and bringing the meaning of the scriptures into the
situation of our life as we live it day in and day out.
A minister is called to be a leader, to
call us out, challenge us. To help us see something new and
different, the possibilities in life. To call us into those
arenas. I remember one day at the regional assembly the session
ended and it was time for people to go out and find a place to
eat. And they were leaving and going out, and I looked out there
was a car going down the driveway with a minister running along behind
it. He said "Hey, wait for me, I'm you're
That brings us to something else that I
really want to bring to us with with the heart of the message today, and
that's the second chapter. And that has to do with this concept of
a priesthood of all believers. Because you and I have a calling
also, in a very special way. It's pastor and people together in
our community that makes it work.
There was a minister who was
preoccupied one Sunday morning with his thoughts because the church
building needed some real repairs, and they needed about $4,000 to make
those repairs. It just so happened there was a substitute organist
that day because the organist was sick. They sent this substitute
organist over and it kind of put the minister on edge, he wasn't too
happy about that. So throughout the service, he said here's the
bulletin, here's the service, you'll have to figure out something to
play after I make this announcement about our need for our financial
situation. And so they got into the service, and pretty soon the
minister paused in the service and made an announcement, and said
"Brothers and Sisters, we're in great difficulty. The roof
repairs cost twice as much as we expected and we need $4,000 more.
Any of you who can pledge $100 or more, please stand up". So
at that moment, the substitute organist played The Star Spangled
Banner! That's how the substitute became the regular organist J.
We're a team. It's pastor and
people together in a very real way. And we have our calling.
There are quips on the Internet, you know, we like to say we want to
serve God in a special way. But one of these little quips says
"Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors".
Another one says: "Quit griping about your church, if it was
perfect you couldn't belong". Another says: "A lot
of church members who are singing 'Standing on the Promises' are just
sitting on the premises'.
And here's the one we really want to
lift up, which says "God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies
He qualifies the called. You are
called. Who, me? Yes, you are the ones exactly that God
looks for. Just like our pastor, you are called. You are
called to be a prophet. Share the message of Jesus Christ through
your life, bearing witness to that message the way you live.
You're a priest. You and I are
the priests of this congregation, to this community in very real ways as
we reach out to be a support to one another, to be present in people's
needs and share with each other's joys and sorrows and concerns.
You are called to be a priest.
You are called to be a teacher.
To witness to the word in each situation you find yourself in.
You are called to be a leader. To
identify, develop, and utilize the gifts that God has given you.
Pastor and people together in the
ministry of Jesus Christ and his way at this time, now. Christ is
the High Priest that has paved the way. Given us the opportunity
to be together and to trust in God and to act accordingly. Christ
the High Priest has paved the way so that we can tell the story, setting
the pace boldly, intentionally.
Christ the High Priest has paved the
way for us to be able to uncork the treasure of God's love and share it
with the world around us. Amen.