Our community celebrated Ash Wednesday this evening, it was a delightful service. I normally speak on the gospel readings, but tonight I spoke on the reading from 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2. Here Paul calls us to question out of what core our ministry flows. I identified a different question for each of these four verses.
First, that any ministry we do must come authentically from our own being ministered to. That is evident even at the start of this epistle with Paul's discourse on comfort. He urges us to be reconciled to God because to minister from any other place is sadly lacking in authenticity.
Second, that our ministry is compelled by our recognition of the sheer greatness of God's love for us. The kenotic act of Christ becoming sin for us has only one reasonable response - total self-sacrifical worship. As Paul explains earlier in this same chapter, it is Christ's love that compels us to the ministry of reconciliation.
Third, that our ministry is a grace and not a legalism. This colours our ministry in the world, we are not coming in trying to impose a new legalism or process of salvation. No we are proclaimming the same grace we have received. To do anything else kills the grace aspect of it. We spoke about evangelism as our example. I didn't mention it to the group, but in my own reflection I was struck by just how different Jesus ministry looked to what passes for evangelism today. This is passionate and deliberate, but it is not goal oriented rather it is people oriented.
Fourth, that our ministry is grounded in a conviction that salvation is the imminant reality. God wants to step into history, and has. God is not willing that any should perish is not about lining up convert on benches, it is about God's desire to be real and present to all people everywhere. When we minister out of a lesser vision and a lesser conviction we not only rob the gospel of its power, we preach a whole other gospel than the one Paul is talking about here.
When I was reading through the epistle in preparation for this message I was struck by how passionate Paul's writing is. My excitement was renewed, and I was quite happy to share that with my congregation.