The New Year is a good time to reflect on our ministries and how
we relate them to the covenant we have with God. The lessons for
today remind us that our ministries should be based on the new covenant
of love and forgiveness and not the old covenant based on law and
judgment. It doesn’t mean that the law is done away with.
What it does mean is that the law and our sinfulness does not separate
us from God. In Hebrews Chapter 8 it also says that ALL shall know
the Lord in this covenant of forgiveness, not just those people
who are our neighbors and kin that we reach and teach, but everybody.
As a cultural anthropologist, I can easily see this message as a
call to an inclusive ministry that extends beyond the house of Israel
and beyond any group of people who think of themselves as recipients
of a special relationship with God. Jesus is the mediator of the
new covenant, of “better promises,” we read. And in
chapter three of Mark, we read that Jesus summoned up disciples
to be teachers of these promises. In all of his messages, Jesus
talked consistently about love and forgiveness, and always using
inclusive language. Jesus was God’s ambassador who came to
change the relationship between God and God’s people in a
new covenant. But not everybody got it; not everyone accepted it.
And still today, many people continue to operate out of the old
covenant. As I reflect on this reality, I think it is because they
don’t like the inclusive relationship Jesus was all about.
In my ministry as a teacher, specifically as a cultural anthropologist
here at Creighton, I work to open the minds and hearts of students
to all the peoples of the earth, regardless of their religions or
lifestyles. That is how I live out my calling to ministry. Even
in a Christian setting, that is not easy to do, but as I reflect
on the courses I taught last semester and on the student evaluations
of my work, I am encouraged. Students affirm my work with their
comments about my passion for teaching them to seek more objective
truths and my kindness to them in the midst of delivering a challenging
course. So as I reflect on the Psalm for today, I pray that my classroom
can be an ever more welcoming place where truth and kindness meet.
Encouraged by the success of the last semester and the energy of
a new one, I am even so bold as to pray that truth will spring out
of the course work and into student’s minds and justice will
look down from heaven and fill their hearts. That might seem to
be too much to ask, especially if you are short on faith, but it
certainly can happen. The Psalmist reminds us that “The Lord
himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase.”
In this time of recession, it is important that we don’t underestimate
the work that we do and how much the Lord can make of it. It is
a time to commit ourselves more confidently to our ministry of inclusiveness
and thank God for his mercy.