Even though I was never found guilty of any crime or breach of promise, the powers-that-be deprive me of my ability to serve God as an ordained minister. That’s another story. But the statement I gave when ordained on May 30, 1987 remains as true for me today as then.

I think of it often because it reveals my intention back then and still today. Reading it again this morning I feel led to share it with you, as I presented it then, without edit or update. I encourage you to read the context of the Bible reference upon which my statement rests (2 Corinthians 6:3-10). This is my spiritual heart:

Cover of "The Cost of Discipleship"

Cover of “The Cost of Discipleship”

Empowerment is not an act of grace, but of righteousness! The prophets of the Old Testament did not meet the challenge of their call because God gave them some unconditional gift. No, they chose to abide by covenant, the agreement, if you will, between God and humanity. There is a question to face, then: am I prepared to pay the price of a relationship with God, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The Cost of Discipleship” (1937). The prophets were prepared to appear out of tempo with their own time, against fads of theology and liturgy. They declared their experience with God which empowered them. Social analysis, education and political partying did not give them their profound insight. This was gained only by their conviction that God “is a God who loves, a God who is known to, and concerned with” humanity. (Abraham Heschel, “The Prophets”, 1962, p. 224). So God is neither the bearded “know-it-all” and “can-do-it-all” of orthodoxy, nor the shadowy figure that eludes encounter whom the moderns declare. God is the reality that confronts us in our own world and defines who we are and what can, and must, be done.

Paul met God this way. God was a reality who knocked Saul off his high horse and changed a mission of violence to a message of Gospel. Righteousness followed grace. In 2 Corinthians 6:6-7a (Good News Bible) Paul the servant, not Saul the noble, reveals the programme for empowerment:

By our purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness we have shown ourselves to be God’s servants—by the Holy Spirit, by our true love, by our message of truth, and by the power of God.

PURITY – we can be forgiven from sexual infidelity, greed, etc., but while in rebellion against God empowerment is not possible.
KNOWLEDGE – seminary is not a secret society where I learn to be one up on others; rather I learn vicariously so that I may offer all the resources of our time that we may together know God better; to withhold or misuse knowledge weakens us.
PATIENCE – Go has a time and a way to work for good and my entry into the Order of Ministry does not mean I am the only source of wisdom; Christian leadership involves the humility to accept empowerment from you around me.
KINDNESS – giving and receiving with thoughtful regard for others empowers through friendship.
HOLY SPIRIT – filled with the Spirit is the same as call and response to God’s covenant and the power this claim sends through us.
TRUE LOVE – only God can love this way, but when we walk under the sovereignty of God, rather than our own, the empowerment of such a profound relationship among lives can be exercised.
MESSAGE OF TRUTH – facts do not make truth. In John 14:6 Jesus, as the anointed Redeemer, is truth; truth comes not from the head, but from the empowering relationship we have with Jesus the Christ.
POWER OF GOD – this is best understood in Moses’ charge to the escaping Hebrews: “Do not fear! Take your stand and see the salvation of Yahweh which He will accomplish for you today.” (Exodus 14:13, my translation).
By our purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness we have shown ourselves to be God’s servants—by the Holy Spirit, by our true love, by our message of truth, and by the power of God.