I have been thinking about what happened to me last week. One should reflect on one’s interactions in the world.
Last week, I engaged the wrong person on social media. That was my mistake. This person (we’ll call him Joe) said a few hateful things and I called him out. Oops, I know better. Sometimes passion gets in the way of reason. Joe started to call me very profane names, not knowing who I am or what I have done in my life. They are names I will not repeat here. Apparently, I made him so angry that he started googling me. Basically, in the end, before I blocked him, he said that all I have is a made up degree and only an online ministry. Some of what he said is true. I do not very often preside at congregational gatherings any longer. I do not often wear the long robes or fancy appointments. The last time I wore my mitre is when I was concentrated bishop.
This is where it gets interesting. I reflected on what he had to say, still am, actually. It got me to thinking about ministry in general. What does ministry look like? In the grand scheme of things, what are we as laity, pastors/deacons/priests/bishops (insert your tradition here) are called to do, and how are we called to do it? Are we all called to serve local communities? Are we all called to do hands-on ministry to individuals?
After leaving parish ministry (15 years), I opened a coffee shop, which also was (past tense) where my ministry was based. I did not preside over the official sacrament of Eucharist. I presided over the serving of coffee and donuts. After my consecration as bishop, my ministry has changed yet one more time. Some of my fellow bishops preside over mass on a daily or weekly time frame. But others of us have different roles. My major role is to guide candidates for ordination and generally sit behind my tiny desk filling out paperwork. The clergy who I work with are now the acting hands and feet, working with the laity to do the work of the church. The one thing I will never give up is where one of my passions are deepest, working with the least among us, the poor, the homeless, those without food, shelter, who are seeking safety and love. For that, there is no need for fancy vestments. The only thing that is needed is to be present to the community one serves.
The other night, my parents hosted a mission committee meeting at their home. We had hot dogs, hamburgers, all the fixings. People brought salads of various sorts. At the end of the evening, my mother, who is a retired United Methodist pastor, served those gathered Eucharist. After they finished the meeting and meal, we started to clean up a bit. She asked me to take care of the Communion elements, to spread the blessed leftovers in the traditional way–give them back to the earth. I took the leftover wine (grape juice, actually) and the leftover loaf of bread, gave the wine to the earth, and the bread to the birds. This group of people have the same passion I do, making the world a better place. Just because you are stuck behind a desk, it does not mean you are not making the world a better place.
I am because we are.