Special Post – The Priesthood of All BelieversBy
As many of you know, over the years I’ve spoken and written in just about every environment possible.
I’ve testified on behalf of large companies before legislative and regulatory bodies in the telecommunications industry, and spoken before thousands of traders & investors in the investment community. And that doesn’t even begin to address the financial columns, articles, and blogging which has all but exhausted this man’s attempts to translate my deeply held beliefs … yes, in trading … but far more importantly, in life.
Well, on the heels of this past weekend, I feel compeled to publicly share the following talk, which I believe is far more important than anything I’ve ever done on the public scene, and which I’ll be giving at the upcoming Southern New England Walk to Emmaus retreat in May.
Some of you may actually recognize the first part of the personal story, which I’ve shared publicly many times in talks, published articles, and this journal … and which describes my early, difficult transition in starting a trading business.
Out of respect for its true source and intent (I’m simply the hands), I’ve avoided the traditional graphics and turned off the comments for this one post.
And if the words and thoughts impact just one of the many onlookers, every effort exhausted in maintaining this ongoing blog over the years will have been worth all the effort.
May God bless the words and intent of this sharing.
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Many years ago, I remember crying out on my knees.
You see, six months before that, this stubborn, self-driven Type A had made the decision to leave a safe and secure 16 year corporate career in the telecommunications industry to open his own stock trading business.
I was an executive at the time … and the sole bread winner for our family. I’d just received my MBA, had been recently promoted, and we’d just built our dream home on the side of a hill in the Midwest. We had two young children in outstanding schools, and life was good.
Yet despite what I thought was good planning, after six months … well, it simply wasn’t working as I’d eaten through all the capital I’d initially set aside.
So there we were. A 16 year career and two college degrees down the drain, a failed business plan, large mortgage, two kids, and no income.
I thought I’d made the worst decision of my life. Yet even worse, I’d put my family’s future in jeopardy.
Now as my wife and parents can tell you, I’m terrible at asking for help … especially from my parents. For I’ve always been a motivated, self-driven, independent sort.
But there I was, on my knees … literally.
Over the coming days, through a series of phone calls, my folks sensed something was wrong, and that their son was in trouble.
It was at that point, where God’s grace – through my parents’ mediation – took over, as they offered us my grandmother’s home on the Cape as a safe haven and place to rebuild.
Gram was 98 at the time, and undergoing hospice in her last days. She’d been living with my parents in central Mass in recent years, and knew that when she passed, my folks were going to sell her precious Cape home which she very much wanted to keep in the family.
Since the house was small, and had been closed up for a while, I hopped on a plane to Boston that next Friday to check things out. I was actually going to cancel due to near-blizzard conditions – and I don’t like flying period – before I felt a “nudge” to just get on the darn plane.
I saw Gram that night and told her through a series of white board notes – since that was the only way to communicate with her – that I was going to check out the house and likely take it over. She didn’t say anything, and I wasn’t sure if she really understood.
The next day, I drove to the Cape, opened the door, and felt a sense of serenity as I checked out the house where I’d summered as a kid. Later that morning, the phone rang. Gram had passed on. Later, we would find out from the doctors that shortly after my conversation with her, she’d smiled for the first time in weeks.
And so through the grace of God and my parents intervention, both Gram and I were where we were supposed to be … as we began our new journeys.
My name is Don Miller, and the title of this talk is PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS.
I often wonder what God thinks as He looks at our earthly world.
My guess is that he’d find many of us living apart from Him, relying on self-sufficiency as we pursue our dreams and desires. And he’d probably see that most of us – even successful folks by our standards – aren’t truly happy.
So much of the world today has turned away from God, and evidence is everywhere.
Broken homes, random abuse and violence even in the most scared environments of family, school, and church, … the world seems, well … broken.
Yet God had a solution to bridge the gap of sin and death that separates people from God, and people from each other. The solution of course was … and is … our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Even more, God calls forth all of us to stand in that gap with Christ and help bridge the separation between people and God.
So what is this “priesthood of all believers”?
Essentially, it’s a biblical concept that is important for understanding the church and the role of laity in the church. Contrary to the popular notion that only clergy “do” ministry, ALL believers, laity AND clergy alike, are called and given authority to be priests to one another. Those of us not in the clergy are given this authority through baptism, when we’re made one with Christ.
Now you may ask, what is a priest?
Well, first, a priest functions as God’s representative in the world, telling people about God’s word and shedding light on God’s will in people’s lives. A priest pronounces God’s word of forgiveness and healing grace.
Second, a priest acts as the people’s representative to God, essentially by interceding for the people, going to God for their sake, and offering sacrifices of love on their behalf. Something that you’ll undoubtedly experience during these three days.
Essentially, a priest is ANYONE who has experienced the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of God, and who helps others experience grace as well.
Jesus of course is the high priest, the supreme mediator between God and people. And it’s through Christ that the separation between God and humanity is overcome. Jesus is the Word made flesh, mediating God’s grace and truth to us.
Jesus is our representative to God. For He shared our humanity and lovingly sacrificed His life for our salvation.
And ALL believers share in this priesthood – in partnership with Christ. Essentially, all of the members of the Christian community are a royal priesthood.
1st Peter Chapter 2 Verses 4-5 states “As you come to Him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
And then later in verses 9 & 10, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. One you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Now it’s important to understand that we’re not talking about being our own priest. Rather, we’re given the authority of love to be priests to one another. Just as Christ laid down his life for others to make the grace of God real, we too are called to do the same.
And together … as the church and body of Christ, those of us who have experienced the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of God and have committed our lives to Christ, will be equipped – through the power and grace of God – to minister to others … by sharing God’s wonderful love and grace.
So what is our goal as the priesthood?
Well, we have a mission. Three, actually.
First, we’re to make Christ real for people, to incarnate Christ in all circumstances of life … including personal, family, work, and leisure.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that WE are the church and NOT the building. Yet how many times do we say, “we’re going to church”. Maybe a better expression would be “we’re going to be WITH our church”. For the church is simply the community of believers in ministry … or the royal priesthood and body of Christ in the world.
Second, we’re to be channels of God’s grace. To share love, acceptance, and forgiveness with other people. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus tells us that he’s given us incredible power in the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven.
Think of the words to the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done … on earth as it is in heaven”?
Now I have to tell you that until very recently, those were simply words to me. Oh, I accepted Christ as a young teenager – and like many, deviated from the path too many times as God kept yanking me back over – and I’ve spoken that prayer countless times. Yet it wasn’t until my dear friend and business partner named John recently told me, “Don, the kingdom is here … TODAY … on earth … and we’re part of it.”
You see, before that, my vision was a bit distorted as I focused more on looking ahead to a future Kingdom in heaven, without realizing that it’s here … now. Amidst all of us.
At times, John seems light years ahead of me on the path. And often, he’s helped light my path as if he’s leaving a trail of candles behind him for me to see. And clearly, he’s been a priest to me.
Lastly, we’re to “proclaim the might acts of God” to guide others through a darkened world of cynicism and hopelessness.
As I mentioned earlier, my family and I have been tremendously blessed with the ability to live on Cape Cod. There’s a favorite beach a few miles away from our home in South Yarmouth called Smugglers beach. On it, there’s this one jetty that has a beacon at the end of the rocks. It’s not the main lighthouse, but serves a tremendously important purpose.
For me, it’s a bit of a reminder that we as Christians are to serve as similar beacons to reflect God’s light and help light the way in the midst of spiritual darkness, all while Jesus serves as the main lighthouse.
Sort of like my friend John’s candles on my own path.
So how do we go about our mission?
Now before I respond, I’ll say this is the part where it gets exciting for me. I say that because it’s where we get to be … well … ourselves.
You see, each person’s mission is highly personal.
Think about it. We’ve all traveled different roads, have different personalities, and have received different talents from God that he’s helped nurture and grow along the way.
My advice to you as you journey on your mission?
Be authentic. And the only way to do that is to be yourself.
For example, you may try to avoid religious language and stereotypes, and simply witness for Christ in a way that’s natural for you. Make it personal.
At the same time, our mission is also spiritual.
Again, not the “life after death” spiritual. But the wholeness of life in this world according to God’s will.
Jesus worked for God’s deepest desire for people in this world: life in the fullness of God’s grace and truth.
For this is our mission from God. And as priests, we can help interpret God’s will for people’s lives.
Our mission is also service oriented … to serve as Jesus served.
John 13:12 says, “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
There is no better example.
So our mission is personal … spiritual … and service oriented.
But it’s also shared.
It requires incredible teamwork, including the teamwork of laity and clergy working together as partners.
You see, none of us can accomplish Christ’s ministry alone. Even those of us who are Type A’s.
When you think about it, one of Jesus’ first actions in His ministry was to call together twelve others to share his life and mission. And if HE needed help …well, you get the picture.
Lastly, our mission calls for our best. Our best in attitude, ability, and action.
Jesus of course gave his very best for us … his life.
The least we can do is to give our best for Him.
Now for me, this part has taken some doing. Well, make that a lot of doing.
For while I’ve been pretty good at times working God into and “around” my life … the emphasis unfortunately has been on the word “around”.
And it wasn’t until recently, maybe even over the past few months, where this thick-headed, overly-ambitious, Type A 50-year old finally got the message that it’s not about working God into your schedule. Rather it’s about working your schedule into God.
For God calls Christians today not to be passive participants in the problem, but to be active partners in mission … to BE the church.
We have an incredible opportunity to make our lives modern-day translations of the Gospels.
We have the same shared, yet personal mission … to make Christ real and dominant in our lives, and share His grace so that others may know God’s salvation.
Now I don’t know about you, but at my end, I’m so incredibly grateful that God has allowed me 50 years on this earth to finally get the message.
I sometimes wonder where I’d be if my earthly life had been cut short before I finally “got it”. For me, the gift of a continuing life on earth to mature spiritually is a gift of such grace and patience that it’s beyond comprehension.
And the best way I know how to thank God, is to share the gift of grace with others. And so I’m trying.
For after having backed away from many church committees and activities in recent years, I’ve found myself revitalized, energized, and excited to share His message through a rejuvenated participation in Church and outreach efforts, whether it be leading table groups for our Alpha and Wild at Heart courses, donating business proceeds to a Christian Uganda effort, or simply touching the shoulder of a widow as she was missing her husband, as was the case recently.
In return, God has opened a wonderful business door and partnership with a dear Christian friend, who after we hadn’t spoken for years, reached out to me one morning last summer via email … the very morning after I had a vivid dream of him the night before.
Yes, that was John. As I would later told John and his wife, the only odd thing about the dream was that John … who is handsomely bald … had a full head of hair.
As God will tell you, I’m still very much a work in progress.
But I will say that after having spent years complaining about my life being too busy and tiring as I focused on myself and worldly things, with barely enough energy to balance a family and career … let alone squeeze in God’s work, I now find myself far busier … and this is the ironic part … with more energy as I’ve realigned priorities as our Teacher taught us to do.
For me, it’s a change that is in no small part due to the love and message shared by many of the people in this room one year ago.
A message from the priesthood of all believers.