Hello, I am Sue MacAskill a Licensed Lay Minister in the parish of Kidderminster Ismere.
The Diocese of Worcester’s prayer diary for today focuses on Lay Ministry and so too do today’s readings. St Paul encourages the people of Corinth to recognise all sorts of things that each of them has an ability for. Everything is included: prophecy, the working of miracles, sharing of wisdom, sharing of knowledge (not the same thing), healing…the list goes on. He has identified these as gifts, activities and services all of which are given and activated by God through the Holy Spirit as personal ministries. Paul goes on to point out that although they are personal they are given for the common good – these ministries are not to be exploited for personal gain or position in church or society but are to be used publicly for the glory of God and love of neighbour.
Recognising what ministry the Holy Spirit is awakening inside can be quite a challenge. It takes time, prayer and often conversations with other Christians to see where we are each being lead. Being open to whatever gift, activity or service that God is asking you to undertake is daunting, but it is also very exciting.
The very first person to accept the Holy Spirit’s personal ministry was Mary - she was the very first person to welcome Jesus into her life. In the gospel reading today, Jesus, his disciples and Mary are at a wedding. They are excited and are celebrating. In this story she is the one who, I believe, is prompted by the Spirit to enable Jesus to publicly reveal something of his identity as the Messiah. This miracle – this ministry - in the middle of a crowded, and at least slightly tipsy wedding party, needed to be prompted by another person and was for the common good, in this case a glorious celebration of love.
Throughout her life Mary was open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit. Her gift was also one on Paul’s list – the gift of faith. It wasn’t a quiet faith but was one she shared completely with those around her and which directed her whole life.
You could say that Mary was the first Christian, the first to be given a ministry in Christ’s church. And her story is a great one to have as a model for responding to the Holy Spirit. Not just the initial yes to being Jesus’ mother but the ongoing yes: she journeyed to visit John the Baptist’s mother; she loved and cared for her son through exile; she listened and learned through her experience of losing him and then finding him teaching in the temple; she celebrated life; she followed Jesus on his journey and heard words that could have sounded like rejection – but she never lost her faith. She would have been a constant support for him and his ministry. Ultimately she was with him when he died.
Mary is literally a saint. There are a number of days in the year that are feast days in her honour. But this is not a reflection of her life. She didn’t look for glory from those around her, she simply, humbly supported her son, the Messiah in his work.
Lay ministry in all its forms is precisely that – it is support for the work of God, through the prompting and power of the Holy Spirit. And it is not constant. Mary’s ministry changed throughout her life but she never stopped praying, listening, pondering and responding. Her response at the wedding “Do whatever he tells you” could, maybe even should, be a guide for how we respond to the Holy Spirit in our lives.
So, in that light, I have a challenge for you
If it’s been a while since you last found time to pray, listen and respond to the Holy Spirit, or even if it hasn’t, try and plan 10 minutes this week when you can ponder what gift, activity or service the Holy Spirit is activating in you and how you can respond to that for the common good.
“Do whatever he tells you”