Shepherd’s Care: Configuration

We end our look at Mark 3:13-19 under the theme, “Configuration.”

For some time, I used to end my teaching on this passage at 3:15.  But one day, I realized that by failing to deal with the list of the apostles, I was leaving out an essential ingredient in the spiritual formation of leaders.

I call that ingredient, “configuration.”  I mean that Jesus configured the apostolic ministry which would emerge after his own according to the unique personalities of each of the apostles.  Tradition tells us that after Jesus’ ascension, the apostles scattered into different parts of the world.  When I was in India in 1973, I had the opportunity to hear the stories of what happened when Thomas brought the Gospel there.  Similar stories have attached themselves to the others as well.

The point for us today is this:  Jesus sends us out “as we are.”  If he is pleased with our unique personalities and our distinctive gifts and graces, we must practice our ministries with the confidence that we are pleasing to him.

One of our problems today is “celebrity Christianity.”  We have absorbed the mistaken notion that only about a dozen people are doing “real ministry” today.  And too many of the rest of us have tried to make “our” ministry look like “theirs.”  (To be fair, let me say clearly that some of these alleged celebrities are not happy about this).

Instead, Jesus sends us out with the uniqueness of our creation (natural and supernatural)—the human talents and spiritual gifts that combine to make us unlike any other person.  To the extent that we can accept this and offer it, we will be serving Christ within our intended configuration.

An old Jewish legend captures it.  Moshe died, and as he approached Yahweh in heaven, he saw that the Lord was weeping.  Moshe thought to himself, “I knew it.  God is weeping because I was never like Moses.”  Knowing Moshe’s thoughts, God interrupted to say, “Moshe, I am not crying because you were never Moses, I am crying because you were never Moshe.”

Jesus “appointed twelve” (3:16)—no two alike.  Each apostle unique.  If Jesus is content to send us out that way, we must find our joy and our fulfillment in “being ourselves” to the glory of God.  We must never forget that God “creates”—God never clones.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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