Thursday, May 30, 2013

Divine Competence

2 Corinthians 3:1-18
“Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit…” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6a). These words are a great comfort to me. They remind me to give thanks to God for all that I am able to accomplish. They remind me to do my best in any situation and to trust God to bless the outcome. They remind me that it is not I who achieve, but God who achieves through me. Paul’s words free me to worry less about whether I can do something and instead to give thought to how something might be done.

The work of ordained ministers has changed in recent decades. While preaching, teaching, and pastoral care were long considered the primary concerns of clergy, we now find ourselves dealing as much with staff development, budgets, endowments, boards of agencies, volunteer recruitment, fund raising, facilities, in short, administration. There are always plenty of reasons to stay in my office even though I feel like my work should take me into the world meeting needs and touching lives. It really seems that few people can do all that the ministry requires today. But not all ministry is done by “ministers.” Much of what the church is about is best done by lay people, those with the skills and talents needed for such tasks. It is, I believe, a matter of matching the person with the right talents to the job that needs doing. Even then, though, even when we get people pointed in the right direction, it is by the grace of God that they succeed in their work.

Each of us, no matter our skill level, is dependent on God to give us the insight and wisdom, the talent and determination, the skill and imagination necessary to act in faithful obedience. “Our competence is from God,” said Paul, which means not only that we give God glory for what we are able to do, but that we should never waver in our determination, never falter in the face of difficult tasks, because until we try we will never know what God has given us the ability to accomplish. And there is no telling what the Spirit of God will lead us to do next.

Prayer: Lord, only you can give us competence, only you can give us what we need to succeed. Help us, then, to be about your work in the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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