God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I say “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to Thee belong all nations. Psalm 82
We are going to take a two-day break from reflecting on the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. That will return on Friday, and most likely will extend beyond Pascha, so that we can do it justice. I don’t get to converse with people on the Prayer Team, so sometimes my first paragraph is like I’m talking to you, letting you know my thoughts and plans. One of the ways I’m able to keep writing every day is allowing both experiences and things I read to speak to me. Many times, things jump out at me, or I have profound thoughts in conversations. Today I want to share one of those thoughts that came out of conversation and tomorrow, a thought that came during a prayer during one of our recent Lenten services.
The other day, I had lunch with an appeals court judge, who is also a member of the Prayer Team. We had a relaxing lunch, and a beautiful conversation. As we finished our time together, I had this profound thought, that connects his profession, being a judge, and my ministry as a priest. And the thought is this—Christ reveals Himself as “high priest”, judge, teacher, and healer. Christ is the ultimate high priest, so when a priest puts on vestments and stand before the altar as a priest, he stands there in the place of Christ. Not that he replaces Christ, or that he is Christ—most certainly we priests are not. But we take the place where Christ stands, and we dare stand there. Which means we priests better be careful how we are standing there. We need to make sure that we are standing in our place, in His place, in a Christ-like manner. And that’s not just for at the altar, but away from it as well.
In the same way, Christ is the ultimate judge. So, when a judge puts on his or her robe and sits on the bench and judges another person guilty or innocent, worthy of punishment or of freedom, they really stand in the place of Christ. Again, not that a judge replaces Christ or is Christ. But they take the role of judge that is reserved for Christ, and they take on that role themselves. Which means they need to judge fairly, and I dare say prayerfully.
Christ is the ultimate teacher. So, when a teacher stands in front of his or her classroom, they really stand in place of Christ. Which means they need to teach lovingly and teach things that are worthy. They certainly should not teach things that are against Christ. And sadly, we see this all too much in the world, as teachers are compelled to teach morality, in some cases, even more so than reading, writing and math.
Christ is the ultimate healer. So, when a doctor touches the human body in an effort to heal it, his or her hands really stand in the place of Christ. Which means that the touch of the doctor needs to be not only accurate, but reverent, to realize that those hands work the healing of Christ. He is the healer; they are the vehicle.
For those who work in any of these professions, and probably a few more, and I’m in one of them, we have to be careful what we are doing and how we are acting. It’s a pretty serious and humbling thought. This is yet another reason to pray for priests, teachers, doctors and judges.
And for everyone else out there, you aren’t off the hook either. Your job may not correlate to one of the roles of Christ, you may not think you stand in place of Christ. However, every job serves someone. Even if you work in a factory punching license plates, they go on someone’s car. If we are serving, the Greek word for serving is Diakonia, and Diakonia really means ministry. We are ministering to others. Which makes every job a ministry. Which elevates every job to a level of holiness. In this sense, all jobs are done or should be done under the umbrella of God, the ultimate minister. In this sense, we all stand in the place of God.
Just something to think about as you work today, in whatever work/ministry you do!