Imitating Christ key to doing greater things
PEORIA – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton told this year’s class of ordinands that they have the capacity to serve God beyond anything they can “imagine or think” by developing the mindset of Christ, loving God and neighbor and being a servant leader.
Seven were ordained elders in full connection, while three were commissioned as provisional member deacons and seven were commission as provisional member elders.
Using as his text Philippians 2: 1-11, Keaton acknowledged that the mindset of Christ in our ministry seems like an impossible task. “We are not Jesus. He comes that we might have life and have it more abundantly,” he said. “Daily sacrifice, suffering and death on a cross are not too high a price to pay to fulfill his mission. We are not so sure of our desire or ability to pay that price.
“As you continue in ministry or anticipate a new ministry July 1, the mind of Christ may not be the only thing on your mind,” Keaton said, listing a series of questions and concerns about family and relationships with congregations. “Though questions abide, Paul does not let us off the hook. Rather, he clings to the charge to be the same mind as was in Christ Jesus.”
Pointing to Paul’s Damascus Road experience as his commissioning and ordination, Keaton noted that in addition to having a conversion, he became more certain of the faith questions posed to the ordinands.
Keaton asked the ordinands what they would do if they were appointed to a church like Green Street UMC in North Carolina, where the leadership council asked its pastor not to perform any weddings between a man and wife in their church until the state of North Carolina recognizes same-sex marriage. Then they created a service that would bless the relationship of “all couples regardless of orientation.” Voters in the state overwhelmingly approved a ban against same-sex marriages, partnerships and civil unions in 2012.
“What would you do if appointed to a church like Green Street?” Keaton asked. “Whose side would you be on? Could you love the people and lead them even as some controversy has the congregation in different camps? Paul would challenge the leader to help the congregation develop the mind of Christ even as it struggles with an issue where the congregation is not of one mind. If the truth be told, there is no congregation that is of one mind on much of anything. Leaving and loving the whole church in the midst of controversy is no small task.”
Keaton noted that Paul’s approach landed him in jail, but in the midst of imprisonment and his reaction in love “brought more folk into the church, inspired soldiers in the imperial guard and evoked interest in a Christ able to use good and evil to grow the church.”
“If you are determined to love the people with Christ’s love, you can grow the church like Paul,” Keaton said.
Pointing to Susanna Wesley’s ministry in her home with the 19 children as a servant ministry, Keaton said that in being a servant, she became great.
Accountability is a key to servant ministry. “Think about the unimaginable,” Keaton said. “our Lord had the right to say ‘no’ to the Father. Had our Lord not taken on the form of slave and become obedient to death on the cross, you and I would not have this ministry we are celebrating tonight. Our Lord chose servanthood over entitlement” and says to the disciples “you will even do greater thing that I have done.”