The story of Eldad and Medad in our first reading today will not register as a story that is about us. Most people who hear it this weekend will find it interesting but quickly dismiss it for it is about those two guys who lived long ago. Yet it is a story that happens regularly in every parish.
Eldad and Medad were destined to be part of the chosen to serve along with Moses. What happened to them is relevant to us today because what happened to Eldad and Medad occurs in our parishes on a regular basis. Eldad and Medad were dismissed as being unworthy to serve God. It did not matter to those who heard them prophesy. Since they were not present with Moses and the community when the anointing happened, they could not possibly have the same gift as those who were.
In every parish community there are men and women who have responded to the call to serve. They have over time become the elders who are involved in the life of the community and chair many of the ministries. In fact, they typically dominate the ministries and do much of the work involved to complete the mission of the ministry. The sad fact is that there is often reluctance by those in the ministry to include new or old members of the community who desire to offer their gifts and talents.
The mindset of those currently serving is that the ministry is 100% covered and to add more people to the ministry means that those involved will be doing less. This view says the more people involved the less the current ministers are doing. It is this kind of thinking that puts a limit on what can be done. In fact Christ told us that much is required but the labors are few. So we like Joshua and John in today’s readings want to stop those who have been motivated to serve in God’s name. We like Joshua and John are protecting the integrity of the ministry for those we decide are the correct ones to serve. What we are in fact doing is rejecting those who are responding to the call of God. Not only do we turn away those who wish to serve, our actions send a message that is clear to the rest of the community. That message says “we do not need you.”
What we should be doing is looking for and encouraging those who have gifts that are yet unused to step up. What we should be doing is encouraging our entire community to understand that their gifts are required of the mission of the church. Paul tells us “each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). If this is true then we should look at our community as an unlimited supply of God’s power at work among us. If we overlook gifted people then we are missing out by not only involving all who wish to serve but we are failing to be all we can be.
The truth is that ministry as it is being done in our parishes should never be dominated year after year by well-meaning individuals who make decisions about who should be included and worthy to serve.
This is a burning question at the heart of today’s readings. Who is deciding who is worthy to serve within our communities? The message is for us not to view our various ministries as limited in the things we can do. Instead we need to view them as endless if we just open our vision to see where God calls others to join us in proclaiming the kingdom. The message is that we are the body of Christ and all parts need to be functioning.
Just think of what would happen within our communities if we tap into the giftedness of each member of our community. God’s desire is for all our parishes to be formed into vibrant active amazing communities. God’s desire is for our communities to give witness to the love of God by our zeal in serving and our joy while serving. We will never be all God desires us to be until every gift he has bestowed is in use. When we make room for everyone who wishes to serve we will grow vibrant and become that church where the lost find refuge. We become the church where the broken hearted find joy. We become the church where sinners embrace sinners looking for forgiveness.
Let us become bold in encouraging all to use their gifts for the common good. Let us not be like those who wanted to stop Eldad and Medad from doing what God called them to do. Let us understand as Moses did that God decides who gets what gifts and inspires them to use them so we all can experience the move of God in our community.