On Saturday, people from across the diocese came together for a service of Renewal of the Ministry of Lay Readers, Worship Leaders and Pastoral Assistants led by Bishop Kevin at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow.
During the service, Bishop Kevin thanked lay leaders, saying: “On behalf of the diocese, thank you all for your work. You hold licences and authorisations given by me and thus represent me and my ministry in your congregations for which I personally thank you. You enhance the ministry of the bishop and you help this little light of mine shine!”
We give thanks for the ministry of lay people across Glasgow and Galloway, and we pray:
Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ came among us in humility and brought with him your promise to pour your Holy Spirit on all who are called to minister in your name: give your grace to these your servants; inflame them with the fire of your love; enlighten their minds, and grant them a vision of your will and purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The sermon focused on the Gospel of Matthew (5:13-16) and was preached by Ray Gascoigne, Diocesan Warden of Lay Readers. It is reproduced below.
“You are the Salt of the earth but if salt has lost its taste how can its saltiness be restored?’ ‘You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father.”
Today is a special day for many of us. A day made even more special by the fact that we are once more meeting together face to face, worshipping together and celebrating together at this special service. The last time this happened was in 2019. For some here, this may be your first time, and for others, it may be one of many, and there are those who have come to offer support to those celebrating and re-affirming their ministry. Their support and encouragement is greatly appreciated. What exactly are we celebrating? Why are we gathered here today? Put quite simply, we are here to celebrate lay ministry – both licensed and authorised.
The Scottish Episcopal Church, on its website, states that: “All baptised Christians are called to minister in God’s Church. Our baptismal vows in the Scottish Episcopal Church commit us to proclaim the good news, serve Christ in all people and to work for justice and peace, as well as to continue our faithful ministry of Christian worship.”
Ministry applies to all of us. Every follower of Christ is essentially called to ministry in so many different ways. Ways that some may not even consider to be ministry. Ministry however is simply what we do for God. So, we have much to celebrate in the ministry of all believers.
Today, we are focussing and celebrating particular ministries – that of Lay Readers, Pastoral Assistants and Worship Leaders. All serving God in many different ways. We are giving thanks for their dedication and commitment – their love of God – their churches and their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Personally, I feel that there is yet another aspect of today’s celebration – a very important one – as well as renewing our commitment – it helps us feel re-energised – to re-charge our batteries – to re-evaluate and review what this commitment means. We feel re-affirmed – supported and encouraged. As well as looking back we must look forward to what lies ahead and how we can continue to move forward in our ministry.
We remember that ministry in Greek, diakonia, means to serve and Jesus has provided the pattern for us – he came to serve not to be served and we follow his example by meeting people with the same love and humility as he did – doing so on his behalf. Seeing others as Jesus did.
The reading for today implies two questions that may be at the back of our minds: “Who are we and what are we to do?”
Jesus says: “You are the salt of the earth.” This is a well-known phrase often used to describe a good, honest, dependable person who others can rely on.
That may be a good definition in part of how a Christian should be – of what is needed for ministry and I am sure it applies to each and every one of you, myself included, I hope – but I think we realise that there is much more to it than just that.
Perhaps the operative word here is salt – we know that it was once a very valuable commodity – that salt was used as a preservative in those far-off days before we had fridges and freezers – the only way to preserve food was to use salt. As the salt of the earth, what are we preserving in our ministry and what do we wish to preserve?
There is likely to be a variety of answers – some may say our worship – our faith – our relationship with God – and with others – the integrity of the church – the Gospel – the sacraments – our fellowship and love for others – of course we will all have our own thoughts.
Nowadays, if you asked why salt was important, the answer would more than likely be to season and enhance the flavour of food. So how are we applying this to our ministry? We are ongoing witnesses to the presence of the gospel in our lives. How are we witnessing? We will all have different responses, different experiences. This is not an easy question. Perhaps we could ask ourselves a further question:
How easy is it to season and add taste to our ministry?
How can we be sure that our ministry does not lose its saltiness? We do so through our worship – through the scriptures, through prayer, through taking time to reflect and listen to God. We work and act and speak in a way that is seasoned with the life and the hope that comes through knowing God and brings peace to those around us.
We see God’s creation in all those we meet, treating them with respect and dignity. There is no judging – no matter who or what they are. We show them the love that comes from knowing God. Our words are seasoned with the life and hope that comes through the Gospel.
Consider the Gospel. There is more to reflect on – as well as being the “salt of the earth” Jesus goes on to tell his followers: “You are the light of the world.”
How are we showing the light in our own lives and in our ministry?
In the Gospel for today we are told: “Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and glorify our Father in heaven.”
We have not to hide the light. A hidden light is not much good. Many of us will remember our childhood when we sang with great gusto and many actions: This Little Light of Mine proclaiming “I’m gonna let it shine all the time, all the time”. We may not be children anymore but still we are proclaiming the same sentiment. As a light, we illuminate and make things visible – to shine on the darkness in life external and internal. Jesus encourages his followers to bring the light to a dark and broken world. A light that is the light of the Gospel, a light that draws people to its warmth and radiance.
Our ministry is an ongoing witness to the presence of Jesus in our lives – in our worship, in our love for others – caring for others – our ministry showing that we are the light reflecting the light of the world – Jesus Christ.
To bring this light of Christ to others, firstly we need to be aware of where it needs to shine in our own hearts.
We bring light to those in the darkness of depression – despair or addiction – we bring light to the lonely and the marginalised.
When I read this over my first thought was – this all sounds rather daunting. Then I realised that, as Christians, this is what we all strive to do. It is comforting to know we are not alone in our striving as we seek to minister to others, we have support and encouragement from our fellow Christians who are also seeking and striving to do likewise. Most of all, we have the assurance that God is with us – loving and caring for us.
Ministry is an ongoing witness to the presence of God in our lives. Being salt and light is not a choice. Jesus did not say you can be, or you have the potential to be. He just said you are.
All we have to do, is to live our lives in such a way that glorifies God in everything we do. Perhaps it will be noticed that we are more positive in situations – we are more forgiving – more gracious and more at peace. In our ministry, in our churches and in our lives let us try to be salty Christians, bringing light into the lives of those we meet, all of the time.
Ministry is simple – it is the giving of our time, our talents and our resources to bless and help others. So let us go back to our congregations renewed and ready to serve God and others we encounter in our lives.
‘You are the Light of the world… You are the salt of the earth.’