By Stan Friedman
DETROIT, MI (July 1, 2013) – The primary call of ministry is to be “living reminders” of Jesus, Dick Lucco, executive director of ministry development, told ordinands at the closing worship service of the 128th Annual Meeting of The Evangelical Covenant Church on Saturday night.
Drawing from the words of late Catholic priest Henri Nouwen and Covenant theologian John Weborg, Lucco said the ministers would be living reminders when they were faithful to be priests and prophets. Priests seek out and sit with the broken. Prophets confront the people and systems that often cause that brokenness.
That ministry would be possible, however, only if the ministers stayed connected with Jesus, Lucco said.
He recalled the trend several years ago of wearing WWJD bracelets, with the letters short for What Would Jesus Do? Though he decided to wear the bracelet, Lucco said, “I knew then and I still believe now that that’s the wrong question.” He continued, “The right question is, ‘How do I live my life as Jesus lived his life, and how do I stay close to the Father as Jesus stayed close to the Father so when the time comes I might do what Jesus would do?’ But it’s too many letters.”
Living out their call would be impossible with that realization, Lucco said.
“If we are going to be living reminders of Jesus Christ, if we are going to enter into ministry in his way—priestly ministry, prophetic ministry—we absolutely have to stay connected to him as branches are to a vine because apart from him priests and prophets aren’t worth anything. Apart from him, what we have to say doesn’t matter,” Lucco said.
He told the ordinands that more than 20 years ago he left pastoral ministry for three years because he had let himself become disconnected. “I forgot who I was,” he said. “I forgot that I was God’s chosen one. I forgot that I was his delight. I forgot that he loved me, and I lost my connection to Jesus.”
Lucco shared that the promises of God were for the entire church, but they were especially for the ordinands that night. “You are God’s beloved. God promises to hold you up in difficult times, in times of discouragement, in times when nothing seems to be going well and you are wondering if you can make it,” he said.
Afterward, the ordinands took their vows to depend on God and serve the church. Though they already had been serving in churches – some for several decades – the moments in the service during which they knelt, were prayed over, and then had stoles laid upon their shoulders as reminders of being yoked with Christ were especially sobering as well as joyful, newly ordained ministers said afterward.