An aesthetically beautiful film that’s difficult viewing at the same time; Joker is unsettling, sad, and shocking. There’s no apologetic for violence here. Rather, the narrative suggests partial explanations. Destined to be a comic book film classic.
Shortly after I began speaking with my pastor about the possibility of pursuing ordination with The Anglican Mission, he passed a copy of Michael Ramsey’s classic The Christian Priest Today my way.
Of course, I had no idea that this little book was by a former Archbishop of Canterbury, or that it was originally a set of addresses to candidates for ordination in the ’70s. As I’ve continued to digest the simple, yet profound wisdom in Michael Ramsey’s The Christian Priest Today, it’s become apparent to me why it’s remained pertinent for over four decades. I suspect it will endure many more.
In today’s world of marketing-speak and leadership-culture-infused ministry books, The Christian Priest Today is a breath of fresh air. Ramsey delves deep into what it means to be a pastor, a shepherd of souls. Discussions about developing your “personal brand,” and “leadership strategy” are blessedly absent. Not that there’s anything inherently or necessarily wrong with understanding how to apply those ideas to ministry, but something feels right about the simple way Ramsey speaks of preaching Jesus, living a life of prayer and cultivating a humble heart.
Although The Christian Priest Today is approaching the half-century mark from its first publication, Ramsey’s simple and direct style reinforce the underlying timelessness of his observations regarding the pastoral roles of deacon and priest and bishop. It remains fresh because Ramsey wasn’t seeking to be “cutting edge” (though he didn’t avoid contemporary issues) about a practice and vocation that itself is fundamentally timeless.
I was reminded that shepherding souls will always transcend leadership trends, business strategies, and academic accomplishments. Ramsey’s book gently re-taught me that pastoring has always been and will always be about bringing people to Jesus, pointing people to Jesus, telling people about Jesus.
A few nuggets of wisdom that were impressed on my heart and mind as I read:
“We are called, near to Jesus and with Jesus and in Jesus, to be with God with the people on our heart. That is what you will be promising
[in your ordination vows]” (p. 14).
“Let those who are glad to be Catholics or Evangelicals or Liberals set themselves to learn all they can from one another, for the partisan can soon become a person who loves his own apprehension of the truth more than Christ who is the truth, and himself more than either” (p. 72).
“Be ready to accept humiliations. They can hurt terribly, but they help you to be humble…these can be so many changes to be a little nearer to our humble and crucified Lord. There is nothing to fear if you are in his hands.” (p. 80)
“Jesus Christ is himself the gospel we preach…He is himself the essence of the good news” (p. 27)
The Christian Priest Today is the sort of book I can imagine re-reading every year or two, just to help re-center on why I do what I do. It is the sort of book I can imagine giving other young pastors (because if you could only give one book on the pastoral ministry, this would be a strong candidate). It is the sort of book that remains in your thoughts and on your heart long after you’ve finished.
Today I was preaching at a local soup kitchen’s outdoor area, from John 11 (the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead).
Toward the end, I dramatically recounted Jesus commanding Lazarus to come out of the tomb. “LAZARUS, COME OUT!” I practically yelled, at which point someone listening interjected, “Are you even allowed to preach like that?
Idk if it was because of my admittedly high volume level, or what, but I ignored the comment and finished my sermon.
I know I got animated and kinda loud today, but man, I was excited to proclaim the power of Jesus over death. I felt on fire because Jesus is the only shred of hope I have that means anything, and he means so much.
He is the love of God, the way of life, the truth that sets us free, the ground of the only hope that’s truly certain.
The people I was preaching to desperately need that hope—I desperately need that hope—and I felt desperate to communicate it.
I pray I’m allowed to preach like that, because sometimes it’s the only way I can.
“Holiness is to be recognized not by religious achievements or by a spirituality that is superior to the normal human condition, but by the development of a genuine human-ness, by a freedom that is unafraid to be, in Christ, the person God made us”
Finding a good email client is way harder than it should be on Windows. Windows Mail is fast, but buggy and weird. Outlook is overkill and doesn’t support Google Calendar. Mailbird was a resource hog (although there were some things to like there). Mailspring was super nice in some regards but not very flexible and tended toward bugs as well.
I don’t want to speak too soon, but I may have found a solution. I’ll keep you posted.
How do you hate the sin in your life without hating yourself?
This can be so difficult.
I think the key is to realize that you are not your sin(s). Your sin is worth hating because it keeps you from being who you are meant to be, namely a person in union with God.
Yet, Godly hate is never vindictive or retributive in nature, but rather redemptive and restorative. God hates your sin because he loves you. Do you hate your sin because you love God?
I think it can be a mistake to attempt to muster up more hate for your own sin, because we tend to confuse a holy hatred toward sin and self-loathing.
Rather, I think we we should more often concentrate on cultivating a greater love for God. This is what will put your sin the right perspective and your heart in the right place.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14, ESV)
Probably one of the better definitions of Anglicanism I have read, and certainly one of only a few that has seriously attempted to describe our movement and spirituality without undue emphasis on one facet only.
No student of history can deny that people claiming to be Bible-believing Christians participated significantly in the establishment, propagation, and defense of one of the most heinous evils in human history, race-based chattel slavery, and they used the Bible to do so. This is a stain upon our history that we must own as a community. We must not only acknowledge that this was the case, we must actively repent! By repent I don’t mean that as individuals we should be apologizing for something our ancestors did, but rather, we should be actively and consciously moving the opposite direction of whatever led them to commit such terrible crimes against the law of Christ.
This way of repentance has both negative and positive dimensions.
On the negative side, it is appropriate to lament this great evil whenever we think of it. As long as it lives in memory we should seek to understand the reasons why Christianity at large tolerated such a void of morality and decency for hundreds years. We should explicitly denounce (which means to condemn) any way of thinking that leads to such things. At the same time, we must realize that these ways of thinking are transmitted culturally, and have yet to be completely eradicated, so we must also explicitly renounce (which means to formally give up) any such aspects of our culture that have crept into the life of the church universally or locally.
On the positive side, we must actively replace the ways of thinking that we are denouncing and renouncing with a way that leads to the truth about what the Bible says regarding the heart of God for all people. This was modeled for us by the great Christian abolitionists such as William Wilberforce, who believed (rightly!) that a careful reading of the Old and New Testaments reveals the heart of God for all people is freedom and flourishing that begins in the present.
If we read the Scriptures with an eye of discovering the heart of God revealed in Christ, we discover the ministry of the people of God is a ministry of reconciliation between people and God in the here and now!
Out of that comes a spiritual liberation that works its way out into the restoring of people to one to another in the here and now!
And out of that comes freedom that undermines every form of oppression in the here and now!
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”” (Luke 14:13–14, ESV)
In other words, include the excluded! Love the last, the least, the lost, the left out by treating them like family.
This is the kind of thing that only makes sense in the Kingdom. It’s something Christians do because it’s something Christ did. It’s something God did in Christ for you and for me.
Although this might seem like quite a radical suggestion, it’s really only radical if we don’t count ourselves among the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. But if we believe what God’s Word says, that we are all broken people in need of healing and wholeness, well—that changes things, doesn’t it?
Although this might seem like a quite a radical suggestion, it’s really only radical if we consider ourselves the ultimate host. There’s a reason why the bread at the altar is sometimes referred to as the Host. Christ is the host, and we are his guests. And if these are the kind of guests that Jesus is interested it, what does mean for us?
I think it means we are indeed poor, crippled, lame, and blind. If not physically, certainly spiritually. Yet we are loved.
Jesus ignores what people in power think. He touches us with his healing presence.