Priesthood of all believers and vocation

The blog Mission Work, which focuses on faith, work, and economics, is hosting a series on the Lutheran perspective on these issues, also known as the doctrine of vocation.  Every few days for several weeks, it will post some reflections by Rev. Adam Roe, a pastor in the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).  I’ve been asked to respond to what he has to say.  His first post is about the Priesthood of All Believers. [Read more…]

Church and ministry

The nature of the pastoral office and how that fits with the priesthood of all believers has vexed many Christians, especially Lutherans, for whom it has become a divisive issue.  What do you think about this line of thinking, drawing from my essay on vocation?

A priest is someone who performs a sacrifice.  Before God, we need no sacrifices, since Christ is our great high priest who sacrificed Himself once and for all for our sins.  But Scripture speaks of different kinds of sacrifices, presenting our body as a living sacrifice (mortification, FWS?), the sacrifice of thanksgiving, bearing the Cross, the sacrifice of dying to self for our neighbor.   All of these happen in vocation.

Protestants usually don’t call their pastors “priests.”  Catholics do, since they believe the priest offers up the sacrifice of Christ again in the mass.  (Anglicans do, but they consider the term to be related to “presbyter.”)  Instead, Protestants use “pastor,” “minister,” “preacher,” etc.

Could it be that a pastor is a priest in exactly the same way laypeople are?  When they present their bodies as a living sacrifice in serving their parishioners, when they bear the Cross in the frustrations of the ministry, etc.?  Nevertheless, being “called” into the ministry is a high office and vocation from God, so that the pastor is the means Christ uses to proclaim His Word, to baptize, and to convey His Body and Blood to His people.

The priesthood of all believers would thus NOT mean that “everyone is a minister,” or that pastors are not necessary, or that pastors do not occupy a divinely ordained office, or that there is no distinction between pastors and laity.  All believers, though, including pastors, are nevertheless priests, an office they exercise in whatever vocations they hold.

Vocation as the priesthood of all believers

John Kleinig inGrace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today understands that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is carried out in VOCATION:

“There are two hidden sides to our secret vocation. First, we stand in for others before God the Father together with Christ. We represent them before the Father by identifying with them and their needs and by praying for them.” (Page 64)

“Second, as holy priests we take God and His blessings with us to every person that we meet. We are, if you like, ‘christophers,’ carriers of Christ, bearers of Him to others.” (Page 65)

“These two sides to our priestly vocation interact and enrich each other. By bringing others to God the Father in prayer, we are equipped to bring His blessing to them as we go about our business. As we engage with people in our work and leisure, we discover their needs and so are prompted to help them by praying for them. Thus we serve as secret agents, priestly people who lead heavenly lives on earth by remaining in touch daily and weekly with our heavenly Father.” (Page 65)

This puts forward a simple spiritual exercise: When you interact with people in your calling–on the job, in your family, in your citizenship (as you read the newspaper, for example)–and become aware of their needs, pray for them. Intercede for them. Be their priest.