Monday, October 13, 2008

the apostle kevin?

“He called the twelve and began to send them out.” – Mk 6:7

I met a man a week or so ago that was starting his own church. We struck up a conversation, one thing led to another, and he gave me “his card.” And when I saw his chosen title, the “honorific” that he designated to precede his name, I was intrigued. I hadn’t ever seen this particular word on a business card. This man wasn’t “Minister Kevin” or “Fr. Kevin” or “Reverend Kevin” or “Pastor Kevin” or “Deacon Kevin” or “Pope Kevin XI.” No. This man was “Apostle Kevin.”

I didn’t like Kevin’s title at first. To be honest, his chosen title upset my ecclesial and hierarchal sensibilities. In the exciting world of churchy institutionalism, of which I’m a product, apostles are like dinosaurs - they existed a long time ago, but now they’re extinct. To be more specific, an apostle was a person who had seen, with their own eyes, the risen Christ, and because of that, had a special role in the life of early church. For example, Peter and James and John – these were apostles. But Kevin? Not so much.

Consider, for example, Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1 Cor 9:1) In other words, Paul is reminding the Corinthians that he is part of an elite group, that he has special authority, which they don’t have. After all, he is an apostle. He has seen Jesus alive and risen. And because of that, he was an apostle – he had a special role in the church.

Now, I'm not out to take away the uniqueness of the apostolic role. A limited number of people saw Jesus alive post-crucifixion before he ascended to his Father. Paul was one of them. And Kevin wasn’t. Kevin, me, you – we’re among those who are “blessed” because we “have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). And so, on the one hand, me, you, and Kevin – we’re not apostles. We have not seen the risen Christ with our own eyes like Paul and Peter and James and Thomas. That being said, in another sense, if we’re being faithful, we most certainly are apostles. Kevin is an apostle. And so am I. And so are you. And here’s why.

The word apostle comes from the Greek word “apostolos,” which means “one who is sent with a message.” To be an apostle is to be sent with a message. That’s why all of us – in this different sense – are in fact apostles. We are sent to the world to spread the message of the Gospel – the good news – that God is for us in Jesus Christ.

The truth is we live in a world that is in desperate need of hearing the good news. And we don’t need to hear it just once and “accept” it. No. We need to hear it again, and again, and again. And so as Jesus’ disciples, we’re sent to believers and non-believers, to the good and to the bad. After all, all of us are in desperate need of a little good news.

In our culture of consumer-driven Christianity, it’s easy to believe that the church and the bible exist to serve our needs. They don’t. And if we treat the bible that way, if we treat the church that way, we’ll never have our needs met. That’s the great irony. But when we begin to grasp the Gospel – that God sent his Son Jesus to us in order to send us to the world – we find meaning and fulfillment and peace beyond all measure.

FOR TODAY: Live your life with the understanding that you are “sent.” You’re an apostle. You have a message that people need to hear, a message that people need to see lived. God doesn’t just send the “special ones” – Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul. No. God sends Kevin. God sends me. God sends you. Let’s not be a church of dinosaurs. We live in a world that is desperate for good news. God has entrusted us with a wonderful message. And the church is sent into the world to live it and to spread it. You’re an apostle. And so for today, live like one.


KAM said...

I see how it is. Make up an embarassing story about me to see if I'm still reading the blog. You could've just asked.

Karen said...

Hey, you're back!

Since taking my job at St. Pat's, I've had to become very sensitive to clerical titles . . . who knew it could be so complicated? I do produce the business cards though, so if you need a new one, let me know.

I've been struggling with "consumer driven Christianity" so thanks for this post--so thoughtful like they all are.