My sister, Mary Anne, died a number of years ago from cancer. Due to a divorce and remarriage, she had been away from the church for many years. But once cancer hit, she found her way back.
When I had the chance to visit her, I took the Eucharist to her. Then one day I got the idea that I should take two hosts. I could give her the Eucharist and she in turn could give the Eucharist to me.
At first, she was very hesitant. She didn’t feel worthy to distribute communion. Since I worked in the church, she saw me as worthy, but not herself.
This interaction with my sister reminded me of when I stepped out of the pew and into the parish office – how a couple of things happened that I had not expected. First, I thought working officially for God would be different from my other work experiences. Working on a parish staff is much like working in the secular world – same conflicts, same bad coffee.
Second, some of my fellow parishioners began to look at me differently, as if I had ascended up the spiritual food chain because I worked in Church World.
There is a mystique about doing ministry that holds many people back. As Christians we are all part of a continuation of the salvation story that we read about in the Bible. But we have a hard time believing it. We look back on biblical times and biblical stories and see the people in them as different from us. We image their world to be more religious than the world we live in today. We image our fellow Christians to be less inspired than the Jewish people of the Bible. We see ourselves as more secular, less exceptional, less connected to Divine Mystery. We forget that…
Abraham was old.
Jacob was insecure.
Jacob’s wife, Leah, was unattractive.
Joseph was abused.
Gideon was poor.
Samson was codependent.
Rahab was a sex worker.
David lusted for another man’s wife and sent him to sure death.
Elijah was suicidal.
Jeremiah was depressed.
Jonah ran away from his prophetic calling.
Naomi was a widow in a foreign land during a famine.
John the Baptist was eccentric.
Peter was hot tempered and impulsive.
Martha was a worrier.
The Samaritan woman had several failed marriages.
Zacchaeus was short and unpopular.
Mary Magdalene was mentally unstable.
Thomas had crushing doubts.
Paul executed Christians.
And Timothy was fearful and hesitant.
The Spirit called each of them as surely as the Spirit calls each of us today. So, let’s set aside any ideas that we are not worthy to be working disciples of Jesus. Nobody ever was and nobody ever will be.
The trick is to do this together. To work with each other’s strengths. Ask me to write a blog or lead a prayer service, but please don’t ask me to balance the books or give directions.
Fear comes from the head; courage comes from the heart. Don’t let thinking that you don’t know enough about the Church, or that you’re not spiritual enough to volunteer, keep you from becoming a working disciple.
The next time you wonder if you should become a Eucharistic minister, or lector,
join a prayer group, or volunteer in some other role, screw up your courage and do it. The community needs you. And remember, none of us is worthy. Nobody ever has been.