Jesus said “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Matthew 10:40
This verse is important because it explains the nature of the apostolic office on the legal principle governing a Jewish emissary: “A man’s agent is like himself.” It deepens the religious basis of the apostolate by deriving it ultimately from God himself in a cascading succession mediated by Jesus, who is himself the apostle of the Father. New Jerome Biblical Commentary (NJBC)
In the Outline of the Faith in our Book of Common Prayer we tell the world and each other what we believe about ministry and ministers (and you will find the basis of these expressions in the scriptures we use, like the verses in the Gospel this Sunday):
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members
Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church
The Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 855
In the light of our Gospel reading today and what we say about ourselves:
- • The mission of the church is presented in terms of relationship, not dogma; as a church we are to restore “all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
- • This mission is pursued as a community, not as independent contractors;
- • However, since the Church is composed of various individuals, “all its members” are responsible for ministry so that the Church can carry out its mission (of building and restoring relationships);
- • Lay persons (by far the majority of members in the Church) are ministers (in fact, lay persons are the first-named ministers);
- • “The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ….” Here, a further commentary on Matthew 10:40 may be quite instructive
Expanding on the notion that we are “to represent Christ,” (whether a lay person or ordained) each of us is not just an ambassador, but “like [Jesus] himself.”
“Whoever welcomes you,” Jesus said, “welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Mt. 10:40). The disciple, wherever she or he might be, actually “embodies” Jesus as a Kingdom-bearer.
Jesus was big on the concept of “agentry.” That is, he believed strongly that the disciple who went out in his name was not just a “representative,” but, in fact, an extension of his own being and authority. In other words, when the world encountered a disciple of Jesus, they were encountering Jesus himself.
To borrow from the well-known passage—and to amend it slightly—we, the agents of Christ, are “the way, the truth, and the life” to the world. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health … until death do us part. Jesus is judged through us, by how the faith flowers or fades in us.
“Postscript” in Synthesis, June 29, 2008
This raises some intriguing questions for us. Assuming that the statement about embodying Jesus wherever we might be is a true statement (and biblically sound), and accepting that we are ministers restoring all people to unity with God and each other:
- What gifts of Christ do you “embody” as you minister? (Remember: lay persons “bear witness to [Christ] wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them,”)
- Do you “feel” like “an extension of [Christ’s] own being and authority”?
- How are you working to be a better “extension” of Christ’s being and authority?
- When “the world” encounters you what do they learn about Jesus (since you “embody” and have been given the authority of Jesus as you go into the world)?
It is humbling to understand that we have been invited by God “maker of all that is, seen and unseen” to know Jesus Christ. It is exciting to understand that we have accepted this invitation. It is humbling to understand that Jesus, the Son of God, has chosen us and sent us out. It is a challenge to our creativity and discipline to live up to and into this ministry. It is necessary to come together often to confess that we have not lived up to our end of the covenant, ask forgiveness, receive forgiveness and be fed to go back into the world to be the disciple that Christ knows us to be.
Believe that God has indeed “gifted” you for this ministry.
Believe that God has “graced” you in ways known and yet to be discovered so that you may “embody” him (God’s love, the Good News) in the 21st century places you live and work and play in.
Believe that you make a difference as God’s beloved child.