We recently had a service of priestly ordinations. It was a wonderfully powerful time in the presence of the Lord, and marks a new season for us as a movement. A season filled with revelation of the High Priestly ministry of Jesus, and a deeper understanding of the call that is on all of God’s people to be a kingdom of priests to the world.
And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
In the midst of all of that, I have been reflecting again on my own calling. I am a deacon. I feel a strong sense of call to the diaconate and I feel very at home here in this office. That seems to be somewhat difficult for people to understand.
I had to laugh, because in the days after the priestly ordinations, I received such overwhelming affirmation from so many people. And I appreciated it. I genuinely did. If you were one of the people that encouraged me – thank you! What caught me off guard, though, is that many of the faces looked as though they were offering condolences. It seemed as though maybe people felt like I should feel overlooked, or that I wasn’t good enough to be chosen for the priesthood. I felt like people expected me to be sad, or something.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the office of priest. I love that many of my closest brothers, those who I was ordained to the diaconate with, were called to the office of priest. I am excited about the impacts that their priestly service will have on our congregation and on our city. But I am not a priest. Every member of the Body has a place, a function, a charism from God; and mine is best expressed in the diaconate.
Let me try to explain.
I have, for most of my life, felt a call to vocational ministry, but I was not at all interested in becoming a lead pastor, which was really the only option for vocational ministry in the churches that I was raised in. This left me confused. What did God want from me? What are the gifts that he has given to me for the building up and edification of the Body, and how am I to use them? There didn’t really seem to be a category for people like me.
When I began to study Holy Orders and the three offices of bishop, priest, and deacon; I found myself being drawn towards the diaconate. The foundations of this office are in Acts 6 where the apostles set apart ‘the seven’ for the task of waiting on tables and serving the poor – so that they would be able to focus whole heartedly on “prayer and the ministry of the word”. So then, this office is one that is founded on service. On serving Christ, serving his Church and serving the world.
It is an office that is deeply missional, designed to be a bridge between the Church and the world. This analogy has been so useful for me, because it has helped to explain the strange dichotomy that I often experienced – I was comfortable in virtually any situation with any group of people, and yet I rarely felt a sense of belonging. I was fine where I was, but my thoughts and desires were often elsewhere. This is in some ways because the call of the deacon is to bridge between such diverse points of contact. When in the Church, one of the roles of a deacon is to promote the world – to inspire God’s people into missional engagement with their neighbours and to interpret the needs of the city to the People of God. When in the world, the deacon embodies and promotes the ministry of the Church – proclaiming the Good News of Jesus and helping people on their journey into his household.
So, wherever I find myself, in some ways my role is to be a connecting point for somewhere else. I exist in the in between. On the outer edges of the advancing Kingdom and on the steps of the altar.
Now that I understand that, I am not so confused. I like this place and I’m convinced that God has set me here. I am content with the calling he has given me.
Sometimes I think we read the scriptures wrongly. We so believe in equality that we forfeit distinction. We forget God’s right to choose unique callings for every member of the Body. We somehow think that every gift should be for us. Every calling should be for us. Every charism should be given to us.
But that’s not the way it works. The Body doesn’t function unless the parts work in harmony, each contributing in their own way. A hand can try all it wants to be an eye, but it’s not going to be very good at it, and the whole body will suffer as a result.
God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be?
1 Corinthians 12:18-19
In ancient Israel when God was in the midst of delivering his People from slavery in Egypt and leading them towards their inheritance – there was only one man who was allowed to climb the mountain and enter God’s presence. Was Moses more loved than the rest? Was he more worthy? No. Not at all. He was chosen by God and anointed for that role – and his fulfilling of that role was done in service to God and for the edification of all God’s People.
Whatever God has called you to, whether it’s the priesthood, motherhood, custodial or healing ministry, your calling can be fulfilled in service to God and for the edification of all of God’s People. Callings cannot be measured by way of comparison to the things that God has chosen for others. Instead, we celebrate the gifts of God in others, confident that God has good things for us as well, and that when each of us functions in the roles that God has set out for us the whole Body benefits. Every calling is indispensable and is worth celebrating.
Be thankful then for the unique qualities that God has instilled in you and for the particular gifts that he has granted to you. And if you’re not sure what those are yet – celebrate the things that you can identify in the people around you.
He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling.
1 John 2:10