By Pastor Paula Burchill
Years ago, I was preaching a sermon about how God doesn’t care what job you do, you are one of God’s ministers no matter what. During the sermon, a little boy raised his hand and I didn’t know what to do, so I called on him. He piped up with words I’ll never forget. “I know why a trash collector and a pastor are the same. It’s because they both pick up the trash in people’s lives, just in different ways.”
That is Martin Luther’s doctrine of the Priesthood of ALL Believers in a nutshell. In Luther’s day, there was a hierarchy of who was closer to God. The Pope was the closest of all and it went down the line through the various clergy ranks and ended with regular people like trash collectors and kids. They were the least close to God.
Luther said that is all rubbish! We are all God’s ministers no matter our age, occupation, gender, whatever–God uses us all.
I sometimes wonder if this is one of Luther’s teachings we have understood the least. I say that because I quite regularly hear things like, “will you put in a word with the big guy for me?” or “You’re a pastor, so I need you to talk to God.” Or “Pastor, will you say the prayer for us before we eat?”
I get it. It is scary to pray in front of others. And praying for all of you is a privilege I cherish as your pastor. But no pastor is any closer to God than anyone else is. God hears the prayers of all of God’s people equally and fully.
That is one of the reasons we have formed a Prayer Team at SLC. Occasionally, we offer prayers for healing after worship. Anyone is welcome, but it is almost always a pastor who does the praying. We think that unintentionally sends a message that prayer is our job alone. So a group of wonderful people have agreed to pray for you on our healing Sundays, which will be once a month.
It is such a blessing to be held in prayer by a brother or a sister in Christ–to know that we all have the gift and the privilege to pray for each other. When the Prayer Team prays for you, all prayers will be held in confidence. They are there to walk with you and to speak to God on your behalf.
I hope you will come forward during these times. We can certainly bring our prayers to God on our own, for whatever we need. But it is sure something to be prayed for by others. In Matthew Jesus said where two are three are gathered, that is where I am. I have always loved that reminder that Jesus wants us to hang out with each other. He wants us to pray for each other.
He wants us to know that we are all his ministers and equal ministers on his team—from the pope on down to the youngest child. What a gift to cherish!