12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.
12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,
12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
12:6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;
12:7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;
12:8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
In my previous messages, I tried to convey to you that I want God’s love dwelling within me to become the guide of my ministry among you. I also wanted to emphasize how living out a covenantal life as the Heritage District is one of my hopes as I serve in this ministry. Also, I promised I would articulate in the coming weeks how I hope to live out my role as Chief Mission Strategist and Keeper of God’s vision for the Heritage District as well as how to live out as covenantal people.
One of the lectionary readings for this Sunday comes from Romans 12:1-8. In this text, I find guidelines for me, as your district superintendent, as well as for you, pastors in the Heritage District who are committed to live as covenantal people. First, we need to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and to one another. Second, we should not conform to this world; instead, we need to embrace a posture of ongoing learning and to seek the renewal of our minds and hearts, so we can carefully discern God’s will for our lives and our ministries. Third, we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.
Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and to one another as Heritage district is an invitation to think about how often we put ourselves first instead of God and our neighbor. In my role as DS, I see it as an invitation for me to not adopt a defensive posture when questioned about my ministry among you, but instead to engage in dialogue. I also see this as an invitation to put aside my own biases and prejudices, so I can listen and learn from clergy, laity, and churches at large.
In our role as a clergy or laity, we are invited to ask ourselves how can we learn from one another. We should frequently as ourselves: What can we learn from other pastors, our church members, and/or people from our communities? How can we present our bodies as a living sacrifice to one another? How can we work together to better serve our communities?
Not conforming to his world by embracing a posture of ongoing learning and to seek renewal of minds and hearts is an invitation for me to listen to people, especially people with whom I might not agree. For clergy and laity, it is also an invitation to deeply listen to one another. In the midst of this pandemic, the least we can do for each other is to listen attentively. Especially, we need to listen to the laments of our communities. As the Church of Christ, we cannot ignore the inequalities that exist in relation to education and health access. One example is the many children that will be in disadvantage as they start a new academic year virtually. We must find ways to collaborate with our communities to close the gap in these inequalities. We must constantly ask ourselves: how can we model, as the Church of Christ, a posture that reflects God’s love and reconciling nature?
Thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought can lead us to harm ourselves and others. Paul warns his audience about this because he knows that an arrogant posture can be destructive. My promise as your district superintendent is to always look for opportunities to grow. All of us have blind spots, and we need each other’s help identifying these areas in our lives that need transformation and redemption, so we can continue in our journey toward Christian perfection. I personally welcome your feedback, so I can grow as a human being and as a DS.
May we all be willing to participate in constant self-examination, so we can identify ways in which we might be thinking more highly of ourselves and practicing arrogant behaviors that need to be redeemed by God. Adopting a posture of humility will help us to discern better our vocation as clergy and laity, and, ultimately, as the Heritage District.
Show me the suffering of the most miserable
So I will know my people’s plight
Free me to pray for others; For you are present in every person
Help me to take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
Amen. – Written by Cesar Chavez
If you would like to view past editions of Time with Ismael, follow this link: https://heritagedistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/