Name it, claim it

by Fletcher Lowe

“I really like my work here.” the dental assistant said as I sat patiently waiting for the dentist to appear. “I like what I do and the people I work with and the patients—at least most of them, including you,” she continued.

Francesca Balajadia, Red Cross volunteer, is participating in the Red Cross Dental Assistant Training program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alesia Goosic)

I said, “It sounds like you have a real ministry here.” There was a pause, and then she said: “Really?  I never thought of it like that, but maybe what I do really is ministry.”

“Well.” I said,” it certainly sounds like a ministry to me.”

This is not an isolated event.  There are so many people working so many jobs that really are their ministry.  We just need to help them name and own it.  In so doing we put another dimension in what they do: That it is more than a job, really a ministry, God-given, through which they live out their faith in their work.

Christians of all sorts and conditions are doing ministry in all kinds of places and positions.  Our role is to help them name what they are doing as ministry and to help them own it.  What about the Uber driver or the ER nurse or the cleaning person in our office building or the receptionist in that office or the teller at our bank or the clerk in the clothing store…. The very act of affirming what a person does, thanking them for their work, can begin a short conversation that leads to naming what they do as ministry.

So often we limit the use of words like ministry and vocation and calling to those who are ordained, whereas all the Baptized are called to live into their Baptism in their daily lives, which is their ministry.  We need to help folks make that connection by naming it, so they may own it.

As Martin Luther once remarked, “The housemaid on her knees scrubbing the floor is doing a work as pleasing in the sight of the Almighty as the priest on his knees before the altar saying Mass.” We have a mission: To help the “housemaids” whose lives intersect with ours—even briefly—to own their work as ministry.

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