As I officially embark upon pastoral ministry in the next couple of weeks, I decided to launch this site as a means to promote and share with you what has been and will continue to be shared with me (see tagline at the top referring to 1 Corinthians 11.23).
I am in awestruck wonder at the grace that God has given through Christ to me in my life. But because God’s grace is a gift, then I am not the proprietor of it. I am beckoned and charged to share that grace generously with those with whom I come in contact throughout my life. That’s what the theme centered upon at the Memphis Annual Conference this year, which concluded yesterday in Jackson, TN: “Extravagant Generosity” (see image below).
At the conclusion of the conference, Bishop Chamness declared the fixing of appointments for the 2012-13 year, which means that my charge to pastor Liberty & Post Oak United Methodist Churches in Camden, Tennessee for at least the next year (and hopefully longer) is finalized. Immediately before the sending forth, those of us who have been appointed to pastor throughout the Conference covenanted together in declaring our vow to fulfill the call laid upon us. In this covenant we recited the Wesley Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
- thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.Amen.
I’ve said this covenant prayer in multiple services before this Annual Conference, but yesterday it took on a profound new meaning and I had a six hour drive home from Jackson to Nicholasville (where I’ll be residing for 12 more days before we move to Camden on June 19) to reflect upon the significance of this covenant and (God knows) where it will lead me. The first line sums it all up and brings our hearts and minds to the realization that we are not the proprietors or rightful owners of anything, including and especially the ministry to which we have been called. I am no longer my own, but thine.
We are, at most and at best, stewards, even of the grace that God gave in rescuing us from sin & death. Whatever we receive from the hand of our loving and almighty God, it is in order to give or pass on, not to hold up for ourselves. If you read the entire context around 1 Corinthians 11.23 (go back to verse 17 and read through verse 34, or read it here), you’ll see that stewardship and sharing is at the heart of the community meal we know as the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. St. Paul was aware of the lack of stewardship in the Corinthian church such that folks were hoarding up, consuming all the bread and drinking all the wine, leaving some without. Paul encouraged them (and the Spirit through Paul’s words encourages us) to follow his own lead by passing on what was passed to him. I am no longer my own, but thine.
It is true that I cannot share what I have not received. But if I do not share what I have received, then I will only bring judgment upon myself and others will starve. God, be merciful unto me where I have failed in this and enable me to give generously the gifts and grace you have entrusted to me! I am no longer my own, but thine.