07 Oct Pastor’s Paragraph for October 11, 2020
Pastor's Paragraph for October 11, 2020
OCTOBER 11, 2020
I remember well a session of Annual Conference when the bishop called to the platform all of the ministerial candidates who were hoping to be ordained as Elders. He then asked them the questions that all Elders had to answer affirmatively before they could be ordained.
Everything went well until the bishop asked one key question: “Are you striving to go on to perfection in your spiritual journey?” Some of the candidates laughed. The bishop was infuriated at their laughter.
He stood up in front of the candidates and lectured them on the meaning of the question, and how it came from Jesus’ demand in Matthew 5:48—“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It was a clear, concise, demand for moral perfection, which for Jesus meant an upright, moral lifestyle focused on the love of God coupled with a stringent concern and love for neighbor.
The bishop asked the question a second time. This time there was no laughter, just some strong responses from the entire group, “Yes, by the grace of God.”
“Striving to go on to perfection…” is expected from all Christians, not just pastors. Nothing is sadder for me than to see a follower of Jesus feel like a failure in moral life and disappear from the Body of Christ. It is heartbreaking when I hear some of the details of what happened, and I’m certain there are tears in Christ’s eyes.
In the one parish I served, Pete became a dear friend—a friend who was not afraid to tell me my moral short-comings. One Sunday, he asked to meet with me after the service, so we walked down to the front of the sanctuary, and he asked me to sit down. To this day, I can still remember the exact pew. Once I was seated, he shared with me his unhappiness about the way I was treating John, a member of our Bible study. He was very explicit in describing the nastiness that I had heaped upon John, and just as forthright about what he expected from me: “I expect you to apologize to John, then to our Bible study, and then to God.” I promised him that I would do all three things (which I did), after which Pete laid his hands on my head and prayed for me. To this day, I call it my “second ordination.”
Our “striving for perfection” should never end, until we can say with Paul, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.”
Rev. Dr. Jack Grove
New Members Ministry