A few of my friends have said that I should be a priest. Ha! Well, then maybe a deacon. But, if you look up definitions of ‘priest’ you get stuff like: A person having the authority to perform and administer religious rite, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God. And, if you do the research you will find that the majority of ancient civilizations had these intermediaries between man and their gods. Call them priests, high priests, rabbis, imams, witch doctors – whatever. When God was organizing the early Israelites there was even an entire tribe that was segregated to serve in God’s temple – the Levites. These men were the only ones allowed inside the inner sanctuaries of the temple – the place where God lived here on earth. So, for the longest time these ‘holy ones’ – mostly men – acted as the access point between us, the masses, and God. Then Christ comes along and at the moment of His death and God’s ultimate sacrifice, the veil in the Temple is torn, the inner sanctuary is opened, and there is no longer this separation between man and God. We now have direct access to God by the power of the Holy Spirit. The event that marks this transformation is commemorated each year when we celebrate Pentecost Sunday – June 8 this year. This is when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus in very dramatic form in Acts 2:3-4, “Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit.” From that very point on our relationship with the one and true God changes. Christ’s death sanctifies us (all) and we then become ordained through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ sends forth the disciples (not just the original 11 minus Judas) but all who have come to believe, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matt 28:19.
Now sometime shortly after all this, the Catholic Church – ‘Christ’s Church’ does what all organizations do when placed in the hands of men, they develop a hierarchy – titles, levels, segregation, elections. Before you know it we are in church behind a rail, priests with their backs to the crowd speaking in Latin. Now it’s not just the Catholics that back-slide, most other Christian denominations have also decided to place the job of ‘making disciples of all nations’ into hands of a select few. It’s just that the Catholic Church does it so much better. 🙂 The vast majority of us still view the church as segregated into clergy and lay-people, participant and spectator, shopkeepers and customers, doctors and patients. Well, the ‘God’s honest’ truth is that’s not what He has in mind for His Church. On the first Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit didn’t come down on just a handful of those present, it came to all. Christ’s instructions to save the world were not directed to just a few of His most devout followers; they were intended for all of His people. But we, the masses, go along with the church’s version, because saving people isn’t easy when you’re uncertain about your own beliefs. So let the priestly types do that dirty work. (And if you think you’d be more motivated had you been there and actually seen Christ ascend into heaven, think again, because all but one of the original 12 disciples who witnessed Christ ascension died gruesome martyr’s deaths.)
So what is my point? I’m no more qualified to be a priest than any of you others out there that have been baptized into Christ. We are all expected, actually required, by direct command from Christ Himself to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. What may be the reason some folks think I am cut out more for the job may be because after taking some time to do the research I actually now know too much, or rather, just enough to keep all this good stuff to myself. That is all that is needed to allow us to serve as one another’s priests – a true understanding of St. Augustine’s amazing insight, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” And it truly does have a happy ending…
(When discussing this topic with some friends the other day, my friend Gene pointed out that maybe the reason that there was a shortage of clergy throughout the church was because God was telling us just that… it’s up to all of us pick up the slack and minister to one another….thanks, Gene.)