We Protestants emphasize the priesthood of all believers, the notion that we are all called to be a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), but do we practice being “priests” in our daily lives?
When it comes to priests in God’s kingdom, perhaps we need to rediscover the basic functions priests had in biblical times. I’ve been reading 1 Chronicles in my devotional time, and I am impressed with the instructions that priests are given in order to serve God. Can these functions be translated in our own time that we too might reclaim our identity as “a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9)?
In 1 Chronicles 23:13, David assembled Aaron’s family and commissioned them to be priests at the soon-to-be-built temple. This family was “set apart to consecrate the most holy things [in the temple], so that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the Lord, and minister to him, and pronounce blessings in his name forever.”
That sounds like a laundry list of religious obligations, but we too are expected to do these basic functions in our own life.
There are four functions that apply. The first is to “consecrate” holy things. In our day and age, there is no temple to consecrate, and many of the things in our churches–the pulpit or communion table for instance–have lost that mystical symbolism that ascribes to it special status.
We are, however, still called to consecrate things, or in other words, make some things sacred by making things meaningful unto the Lord. It is not a matter of practicing magic or some spell that turns ordinary objects into spiritual entities, but creating sacred spaces and opportunities that help others connect to God.
Take my daughter’s stuffed bunny rabbit, for instance. At first glance, there is nothing special or sacred about it, but she has had that rabbit for over eight years. If she ever lost it, she would face grief and sadness.
My wife and I help my daughter see that the same feelings she has about that rabbit are the same feelings she can have towards God. Just as the rabbit brings her comfort, so too can she look to the Holy Spirit to provide comfort and protection. We are creating a sacred interaction between the Spirit and my daughter by way of something very meaningful to her.
Another function is to intercede on behalf of others. Our prayer for others are “offerings” to the Lord in which we surrender our deepest needs, anxieties, and cares to God. Originally, those offerings consisted of either animals or food, but we can replace that with our very lives.
Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 that we are to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” This presentation also concerns the needs of our community and our loved ones.
A third function is to do ministry. Often, people in the church look to clergy to do ministry and missions. As a priesthood of all believers, however, we are all called by God to do the work of the church.
A last function is that of blessing. It takes grace and courage to bless others because God often calls us to bless the least deserving and the most disagreeable among us. It’s our job, however, to model grace by blessing–and being a blessing to–all people, whether friend or foe, around us.
F. B. Meyer, writing about this portion of 1 Chronicles in Our Daily Homily, wrote, “We should bless that little portion of the world in which our lot is cast. It is not enough to linger in soft prayer within the vail, we must come forth to bless mankind.”
Good advice for a people practicing to be priests, and certainly just one of four basic functions for those of us who seek to draw near to God and join God in helping a world in need.