Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 21: Year 2
“You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.” (Acts 20:34)
I think Paul sets the example for all people in any ministry in these words, that is, to work a regular job and still study and educate people in the way of the Lord and in the teachings of the Gospel. This message is not just for officially ordained persons, it is for those of us who feed the homeless; for those of us who weave prayer shawls; for those of us who have a ministry of driving people to pick up their meds; for those of us who teach Sunday School, and yes, for those of us who are also ordained clergy.
I am aware that in a large main line Christian denomination, parishioners as well as the clergy themselves, insist on being single minded in their vocation as pastor. When I told my spiritual advisor, while in seminary, that I desired to be a “working priest,” he honestly told me that if he was on a search committee he would not even consider me for a clergy position. That was 2004.
Today, as the Episcopal Church is reinventing itself, the idea of the working priest, or “bi-vocational” priest, is definitely on the table for consideration, especially for our smaller parishes. There are more benefits to this idea than one might think. How nice it is to stand before people on Sunday morning conducting the service and your congregants are well aware that you too have worked the whole week just as they have. And, that working priest then demonstrates pledging and giving to the poor as well. Paul also says in our reading for today, “In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:36)
I think that people who work in needed secular occupations have an opportunity to compliment their own lives by also participating in various Christian ministries. It should not be one in place of the other. This should be both/and, not, either/or. Perhaps the only exception should be a bishop who is the chief pastor of a diocese, which by is size and nature, becomes his or her primary vocation. But even to this occupation they might be inclined to teach a Christian Education class as a side contribution.
We all should work in community for the maintenance of that community. A smart person once told me that “everybody can’t be in the cart, somebody is going to have to get out and help push.” Paul says, “You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.” I think these two messages are the same. Proclaiming the Word should be in addition to work, not instead of work.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John