Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Life

from March 4, 2008
What does it mean to say Jesus is LORD?

Especially for a church officer, this is a BIG question! It is in essence, a membership question. One becomes a member of the PC(USA) thru “faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and acceptance of his Lordship in all of life” (Book of Order – G-5.0101a). Members profess that faith and acceptance, and promise to participate in the worship, mission and ministry of the church. But church officers (Ministers of Word and Sacrament, Elders, and Deacons) are called to particular responsibilities and given unique authority within the church, including being an example for others to follow, seeking out God’s will for the church, teaching the people about God and God’s ways, caring for the people, and leading the church in faithfulness.

Because, as leaders, we are entrusted, by both God and the congregation, with such a precious treasure as the Good News and the church, we begin our service by reaffirming that most basic membership question.

What does it ask us to affirm? I will just lift up three things.

1. That we put our primary trust in Jesus Christ.
When we put our trust primarily in ourselves, we are saying that we have all the wisdom that is needed to faithfully lead God’s people. But do we really? When we try to “go it on our own,” we deny that anyone else, including God, might have something to add to the conversation. And rarely, if ever, do we make good decisions when we rely only on our own resources and wisdom. Especially when we serve a God who often challenges conventional wisdom. As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:20-25:
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

2. That Jesus is not just our Savior, but also our Lord.
Remember Peter’s declaration of faith at Caesarea Philippi? “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt. 16:13-15). Caesarea Philippi is an interesting place – it was site of one of the headwaters of the Jordan River – also the site of the birthplace of the Greek god Pan, a worship site for an ancient Canaanite god,and the site of a temple to the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. In the midst of those temples, in the midst of those competing loyalties, Peter makes his confession. That is us today – we are asked, in the midst of all the competing loyalties we have, and in the midst of all the competing demands on our time by family, friends, work, even church work, we are asked to give our first and primarily allegiance to Christ. Especially those called to lead the church. That asks a lot of us, no doubt. And at times it may ask a lot from our families. It is always a balancing act. Yet it means something to say, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior”, and our congregations need to know that Christ is first in our lives, and in leading the church, we seek to be faithful to him above all else.

3. That the church does not belong to us.
We are called to exercise leadership by one who judges our leadership and who also gives us an example of how to lead. The decisions we make should reflect his will, not merely our own opinions. So by acknowledging Christ as Lord of the Church, and not just our Savior, we state clearly that we are accountable to him for our actions and decisions, and we will seek his guidance at all times. This is, after all, Christ’s church, not ours, and we are called into the church so that we can be the Body of Christ reaching out into the world.

As each of you seeks to lead the church in these changing times, I pray that you always remember this vow you took when you were ordained, and every time you were installed. Remember this, and you are already on the right path to faithful leadership!

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