To say that Park View Christian Church is going through a time of transition would be an understatement. The loss of a beloved Minister is never easy, and the loss of Pastor Tim and his family is no exception. It becomes easy to focus on the loss. Yes, we should acknowledge that it happened and develop our own ways to cope with the grief, but we should not focus solely on the loss and the transition. Let us not lose sight of the great opportunity we have in the interim. We have the opportunity to show our congregation and our community who we truly are at Park View Christian Church by fully embracing one of the central tenets of the Disciples of Christ.
This tenet I am talking about is something called the priesthood of all believers. Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell, the founders of the Disciples of Christ denomination during the great restoration movement of the early 19th century, believed strongly in the priesthood of all believers. Though this is not just some idea from church leaders during the restoration. It comes from scripture. Even in the Old Testament in Exodus 19:6 God said to his people at Sinai, “but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” And in Isaiah 61:6 we are told that “you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our God.” Moving to the New Testament in 1 Peter 2:5- 9 we see a more direct charge to be a priesthood of all believers: “ 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture: ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame 7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,’ 8 and ‘A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
We have direct access to God through his son Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies where God dwelt. It was shielded by a curtain to isolate it from anyone except the high priest who was deemed worthy to enter. In Matthew 27: 50-51 we learn, “50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.” This splitting of the temple curtain at the moment of Jesus’ death signifies that now the method of achieving access to God was no longer through a high priest entering the Holy of Holies on your behalf, but now access to God was open for all people, for all time. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us removed the barriers between God and humanity, and now we may approach Him without the need for a priest.
We are now a priesthood of all believers. So, I now ask you all, who are we? What defines us? What makes us Park View Christian Church? Are we the services we provide on Sunday mornings? Are we Vacation Bible School? Are we the food pantry? Are we the diaper drive? Are we the coat drive? Are we Operation Santa Clause? Are we a compassionate church who cares dearly for our members and guests and does everything that we can to welcome them, love them, and grow them spiritually? Are we a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world who welcomes all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us? Or are we nothing more than that place Pastor Tim Campbell used to be minister? If all we are is what our Minister does then we have already lost our way. We might as well close the doors right now. We as Park View Christian Church, we are the body of Christ. We are one body with many members as described in 1 Corinthians 12:12-17, “12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?”
To extrapolate from this lesson I will ask, if the whole body were a minister, where would the welcoming congregation be? Where would the coat drive be? Where would Vacation Bible School Be? Keeping with the body analogy from 1 Corinthians, we will assume the minister of our body of Christ is one of the senses like sight, hearing, or smell. The human body is very resilient. If one sense is lost, the areas of the brain normally devoted to handling that sensory information does not go unused. They get rewired and put to work processing other senses. So the loss of a sense such as sight, hearing, or smell, will result in the other senses becoming heightened. It should be the same in this body of Christ at Park View Christian Church. We have lost one of our senses, our minister, and now all of us other senses need to work harder and get stronger to compensate.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I challenge us to fully embrace being a priesthood of all believers and continue to flourish in this time of transition without a permanent minister. If we are doing it right then it doesn’t matter who is in the pulpit from week to week. We are Park View Christian Church, a movement of unity in a fragmented world. We are still all of the great things that this church does and we are still a welcoming place where people can come to find Christ. Not having a permanent minister does not change that one bit. It may take a little more work from each of us in the interim, but we are still who we are, and we must continue to do what we do. Amen.
Jason Chuma, Worship Chair