During our Education for Ministry group, we were given a reflection exercise where we had to choose an item off the center table. We were to examine said item, notice why we had picked it, and anything that the item brought to mind.
Once we had done that, we were to consider how this item reflected our ministry.
My item was a "Life is Good" coffee mug. Initially, I was drawn to it because I like the Life is Good series. One of my massage school teachers always wore the company's T-shirts with the smiling stick figure drawings hanging out in a lawn chair with a beer, or surfing, or fishing, or bike riding. As I looked closely at the mug, I found the phrase on the other side: "Do what you like. Like what you do." I noticed it was somewhat heavy, with a thick-lipped rim. But what I kept thinking about the cup is that it was empty, and yet "Life is Good."
That thought of "empty, but good" was the basis of my ministerial reflection. I thought about all of the "official" ways in which I minister: I am a co-mentor in EfM, a Eucharistic Minister, the leader of Circle of Hope, a leader in PFLAG, and very important, I am a licensed massage therapist, a ministry of healing to those broken by the world.
I looked at the coffee mug again. Coffee mugs are common every day objects. I thought about how I take myself, my Christianity as colored in by the Episcopal Church, into common every day places all the time. One of the most common spaces is among those in my theater group, the Mickee Faust Club. And while I wouldn't describe the cabaret-style theater we do at Faust as "common", the people involved are representative of the vast majority who have been injured by the church in some way and are embittered, or who just don't bother with the church at all. In this way, I am a bit of a mystery to my fellow Faustkateers. As I told my EfM group, I don't push the Christ message on people with lots of "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" But because I don't park my Christianity at the door, I know I have made some in the company have to think about blanket statements that start with, "Well, y'know, Christians are always doing...."
This, of course, is something I used to do myself. The blanket accusation of all Christians for the sins being committed by a few. I had had more than one or two of the little "c" "christian" persuasion scream at me to "Repent!" of my homosexuality, or corner me in an effort to convert me, or seen them in the media denouncing the likes of me. I also was horrified that none of the big "C" Christians felt there was a need to counter these messages with the actual Gospel of Love. Their silence hurt as much, if not more, than the ones who claimed to be speaking in the name of Christ while denigrating members of the body of Christ. I am reminded of a passage in Romans 14:
Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God.For it is written,
‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.’
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Let us therefore no longer pass judgement on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another.
It it this ethic that I carry with me into these common spaces such as Mickee Faust. Because even among the ones who have never cared for or thought much of the church, there may be one who is looking for that beacon of light from God as guidance to a new understanding of how they are connected to God, this world, and all of creation. In his day, Christ was that very bright beacon on a mission to get people to stop bickering over the dicta of how you love God and, in the phrase of Madison Avenue, "just do it!" That is what we are all called to do as members of the eternal priesthood of the laity. Our purpose, vocation and ministry is to live and show forth a life that others might see Christ in us. And then it will be God's own doing that will go to work on the heart, mind and soul of a person.
The more we empty ourselves and share what and who we are, life will be good.