The Manager's Special
What is our role as the Church in the world? That's a tough question to ask, and harder yet to answer. Are we here to be an outpost of the faithful, garrisoned against the unwashed as we struggle to make a life in Christ on the ragged frontier of the apostolic field? Are we the chosen, dwelling for a time among heathen? Or, are we humble servants who nobly reject the world and embrace the privation of an austere calling, eschewing material comfort for the hard path of the ascetic? Are we "high" by our calling, above others? Are we "low" instead, dropping our eyes and our shoulders to assume the burden of ongoing repentance? Oh, the temptations are numerous to choose one of these dramatic routes, for they easily reinforce our needs to feel either superior to people around us or justified in our discomfort to the point that we view it as virtue. Here is the rub, though...aside from passion for God or zeal for God's will, life lived in extremis doesn't really seem to be in God's plan for us. God places a high premium on faith and, seemingly, a low priority on human drama.
So, where does that leave us?
In the 4th chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians....
Our role, it seems, in the apostolic calling that Paul confirms in us, is to take a role in the middle management tier of the kingdom of God. We have accepted the high calling of life in Christ, and yet we find ourselves still living in a world and society that is not yet fully aware of the blessings of that new life. We are not the Savior, but as constituent members of his Body we are his agents and the means by which the Christ maintains his witness of the salvation of God in the world. We are not chopped liver, either...for by God's grace, through Christ's resurrection and in the power of the Holy Spirit the task of proclaiming the good news falls to us.
Middle management in the kingdom of God is a great place to be, indeed. Its challenges provoke continual growth in us as we deepen in faith and experience. As we live out our role as managers and stewards of the Church, we can also allow that the whole weight of "fixing" everything and everyone does not fall to us alone. It is spread across the whole Church, and it is contiguous throughout all time.
Paul, in attempting to remind the Corinthians that they are not "all that" gives us a remarkable gift in naming us as managers to the kingdom. In fulfilling that role, we are able to accomplish more for the building up of the Church, its pursuit of justice and peace and its striving to celebrate the Christ in every human than we could ever ask or imagine. That reminder informs us that we are NOT the center in the struggle for achieving the mind of God. Instead, we as the Church are the conduit, the connecting piece that makes the whole structure of the proclamation of the Gospel an achievable end.
It is good to be a manager in the kingdom of heaven. It is a good thing, indeed.