Tag Archives: sharing

The Ministry of the Eighteenth Camel

I was recently sent a copy of Emma Percy’s book, What Clergy Do.  I did not get along with her premise of “Motherhood as a metaphor for ministry”.  But, it made me think a lot.  If that is not a model of ministry I can get along with, then what is?

This is the only way I can articulate what I believe ordained ministry and leadership to be about – the  ministry of the Eighteenth Camel.

There is the ancient story of a man who left his 17 camels to his 3 sons.

 The instructions were to divide them according to age.  The eldest son was to have half of the camels, the middle son a third of them, and the youngest son a ninth.  This is an impossible sum.

Until another man came along.  He asked them what their trouble was, and they explained.  Wait there, he said, and soon returned with his own camel.  Now there were 18 camels and the maths worked out.

Half of 18 = 9. So he gave the eldest son 9 camels 1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gave the middle son 6 camels 1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gave the youngest son 2 camels.

And the man’s camel was still left at the end.

He lent them his camel, which enabled them to do what they still needed to do, yet when that task was done, the loaned camel was free to go.  It was a part of the work, an important part, but not left tied up in it.  It didn’t become one of the son’s camels, but without it, the sum was impossible.

What seemed impossible was possible with the addition of one extra camel – and at the end that camel was still left over to be used by its own owner.

Ministers are there to be a part of, to facilitate, to help the work of the church.  But the work itself has to be that of the church, the community that will be there long after the minister has moved on.  No other way is sustainable.  They are valuable, but not indispensable; useful but not the person on which everything hangs; a part of but only for a time, the work of God goes on without and beyond them.

Well, it makes sense to me anyway!

Well, Well, Well #adventbookclub – Day 10

With apologies for a truly horrific pun of a title…

By Vaikoovery (Own work)

Genesis 26:17-33 (CEV)

17 Isaac left and settled in Gerar Valley, 18 where he cleaned out those wells that the Philistines had stopped up. Isaac also gave each of the wells the same name that Abraham had given to them. 19 While his servants were digging in the valley, they found a spring-fed well. 20 But the shepherds of Gerar Valley quarreled with Isaac’s shepherds and claimed the water belonged to them. So the well was named “Quarrel,” because they had quarreled with Isaac.

21 Isaac’s servants dug another well, and the shepherds also quarreled about it. So that well was named “Jealous.” 22 Finally, they dug one more well. There was no quarreling this time, and the well was named “Lots of Room,” because the Lord had given them room and would make them very successful.

23 Isaac went on to Beersheba, 24 where the Lord appeared to him that night and told him, “Don’t be afraid! I am the God who was worshiped by your father Abraham, my servant. I will be with you and bless you, and because of Abraham I will give you many descendants.” 25 Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. Then he set up camp, and his servants started digging a well.

26 Meanwhile, Abimelech had left Gerar and was taking his advisor Ahuzzath and his army commander Phicol to see Isaac. 27 When they arrived, Isaac asked, “Why are you here? Didn’t you send me away because you hated me?”

28 They answered, “We now know for certain that the Lord is with you, and we have decided there needs to be a peace treaty between you and us. So let’s make a solemn agreement 29 not to harm each other. Remember, we have never hurt you, and when we sent you away, we let you go in peace. The Lord has truly blessed you.”

30 Isaac gave a big feast for them, and everyone ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning Isaac and the others made a solemn agreement, then he let them go in peace.

32 Later that same day Isaac’s servants came and said, “We’ve struck water!” 33 So Isaac named the well Shibah, and the town is still called Beersheba.

And so the journey continues.  Isaac takes up the journeying after the death of his father, Abraham as he had become by then.  Still moving, still following God.

But moving on meant fitting in with new people, sharing their resources.  It appears that even if you bring help, you’re not always welcome.  I was interested in Maggi’s point that the Philistines themselves were probably ‘incomers’ too (p48), so maybe they should have been more welcoming, or maybe they thought they had even more to lose because of it.

This is one element of journeying that is hard.  You arrive ready, in fact needing, to make new friends and to find a place to fit in.  But in the place you come to, people already have friends, the jobs are all taken.  It can be hard to slip in and find your place.

But new people bring something valuable.  New perspective, new skills, fresh ideas.  That can be frightening to those who are already there.  Will I not be needed any more?  But in God’s ways there is “lots of room”.  So, do we welcome new people?  Do we ‘let them in’, share their skills, their discoveries, ideas that may widen our horizon and enrich our journey?  Or are we territorial, jealous and angry?

For our journey is not a solitary one.  There are companions on the way and people we encounter in the places we come to.  God has been there before us, and will be there when we move on, as he is with those who arrive in our valley.  We cannot claim anything as “ours”.  It is God’s and we are invited to share with him and with others.

At the end, an agreement is made,

So let’s make a solemn agreement not to harm each other

That’s not a bad agreement to live by 🙂  Not just in terms of physical harm, but emotional and spiritual too.  Letting others in, welcoming what they have to share, accepting their gifts, allowing them to show us more of God – unstopping the wells that others have blocked up…

As Maggi points out, there is a skill, and dare I say it, a ministry, in

He didn’t pick a fight with the surround culture, but neither did he allow it to subsume him.  he continued to dig in all the places his father had taught him. (p49)

She also shares some more important lessons for the church from this passage.

The Presence of the Lord is Moving in this Place

Thank you Lord,
for the people
I meet
along the way.

Those who have so much
to teach me,
to show me,
to enrich my life,
to open up the stopped up places.

Those who I can share with,
give to,
and live in peace with.

Thank you that you are
the God of
‘Lots of Room’.
Room for us all,
room for all.

This year, several of us are reading Beginnings and Endings by Maggi Dawn and joining together to comment on it.  Do join us at the Adventbookclub Facebook page, follow #adventbookclub on Twitter or comment below.  If you are also reading and blogging on this book, let me know and I will link to your blog.


God v Money

We’ve all heard the tales of someone looking after someones beloved hamster/goldfish or other small pet and it dying whilst they are doing so, followed by a frantic search to find an identical one so no one knows and there is no distress caused.  Apocryphal or not, it plays to our fears of something going wrong on our watch.

When you are looking after something for someone else you have a responsibility to care for it.

Luke 16:1-13

A Dishonest Manager

16 Jesus said to his disciples:

A rich man once had a manager to take care of his business. But he was told that his manager was wasting money. So the rich man called him in and said, “What is this I hear about you? Tell me what you have done! You are no longer going to work for me.”

The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now that my master is going to fire me? I can’t dig ditches, and I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do, so that people will welcome me into their homes after I’ve lost my job.”

Then one by one he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He asked the first one, “How much do you owe my master?”

“A hundred barrels of olive oil,” the man answered.

So the manager said, “Take your bill and sit down and quickly write ‘fifty’.”

The manager asked someone else who was in debt to his master, “How much do you owe?”

“A thousand bushels of wheat,” the man replied.

The manager said, “Take your bill and write ‘eight hundred’.”

The master praised his dishonest manager for looking out for himself so well. That’s how it is! The people of this world look out for themselves better than the people who belong to the light.

My disciples, I tell you to use wicked wealth to make friends for yourselves. Then when it is gone, you will be welcomed into an eternal home. 10 Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters. 11 If you cannot be trusted with this wicked wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? 12 And if you cannot be trusted with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something that will be your own? 13 You cannot be the slave of two masters. You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than to the other. You cannot serve God and money.

So a rich man hires a manager to care for his wealth.  He gets to hear that the manager has been wasting his money, not looking after it with care and diligence.  So much so that he decides he is going to sack him.  The manager panics, pictures what he might have to do to earn a living now, how his standard of living will drop, and his social status with it.  He decides he needs a few friends out there, so starts letting people pay back a fraction of what they owe to settle their bill.

Then the story takes a surprising twist as the rich man praises the manager for looking out for himself.  There is admiration for his tactics.  This seems quite odd, a strange practice to be commending, and Jesus seems to be agreeing with it.  Which seems at odds with his final statement.  All quite confusing.

So I looked for help:

William Barclay entitles this passage

A Bad Man’s Good Example

and brands it a “story about as choice a set of rascals as one could meet anywhere”.  Light is shed on the good the manager did, in that at least the he managed to get some money out of those who had chosen not to pay up on their debts.  These were not innocents, but people not paying their rent.  Maybe he was taking off the levy he had put on for himself, and getting his boss’s money back without his own cut?

What this story does is highlights the all-round problems money can cause, or more accurately the problems our use of money can cause.

So we are reminded that possessions and money are not in themselves Bad Things, but how we use them can be.  What we have should be used to serve God, and not the other way round.  How we use our money says a lot about where our priorities lie. Do we use if for power, self-indulgence or as a resource to help others?  There is nothing wrong with having money, there can be everything wrong in what we do with it.  Conversely, of course, not having money can cause huge problems.  That is why it is incumbent on those who do have money to do the right thing with it.

It also asks the question of where our emphasis is?  Do we put as much effort into our faith as we do our garden, our golf handicap, polishing our car, shopping or earning more money?

Whatever else we do for work or pleasure, serving God should be our 24/7 occupation.  Our other activities should come from that.

We have a responsibility to care for and use well what God has entrusted to us.

I acknowledge that everything I have is yours,
I have nothing that you haven’t given to me first.
Help me not to cling to what I have,
but to use it
as you require.
May everything I have be at your disposal
– not just money and possessions,
but my time,
my energy,
my skills.

Lord,may everything I do
be grounded in you.
May you be my focus
that informs the rest of my life,
may I give from all you have given to me,
and serve you alone

Eileen has some interesting points to make on this over at A Reflex Anglican