There are 60 of us. We are mostly deacons or priests in ministry in the Anglican church in the Diocese of British Columbia.

We begin our meeting with an exercise in which I have participated many times. We are instructed to arrange ourselves standing around the perimeter of the room organized according to the year in which we were ordained.

We start at the east end of the room and progress around the room until the circle is completed with the most recently ordained clergy standing next to those of us who have found our place in this circle for such a long time.

Over the years of sharing in this exercise, my position has navigated increasingly east until now there are only three people to my right. Each of the three priests standing to my right is now retired. I am officially the old man in this circle of ministry.

I was ordained 36 years ago. I have been the Rector of the same parish for 24 of those 36 years.

Later in the day we hear read the words of Luke 10:1-12. Jesus sends out 72 disciples to declare peace in the world. We are instructed to listen for the words that strike us with particular force. The passage is read twice. Each time the same words sound a chord deep in my heart. In Luke’s account Jesus says to the 72 that, when they go to declare the coming of God’s kingdom,  they should

Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide.

Then a second time, in case they missed the point, Jesus repeats the instruction saying,

Do not move about from house to house. (Luke 10:7)

I have remained “in the same house” for a long time.

I cherish the fact that I get to baptize the children of young couples I married, but there is no particular credit or special merit in the stability and longevity of my tenure in the same parish. It is just the way life unfolded in my case.  The pattern my ministry followed would not work for everyone.

As I hear the words of Jesus in Luke 10, it seems to me perhaps the practice of remaining “in the same house” for a long time is helped by his instruction to “eat what is set before you.” Jesus tells his followers that, as they go about their ministries whatever shape their exercise of ministry may take, they are to be content with what they are given. The provision of the moment is adequate. God gives an adequate supply to equip the ministry God calls into being.

Paul said to the Christians in Philippi,

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. (Philippians 4:11-12)

Whether the pattern of one’s ministry falls in the same place for a long time, or finds one moving from house to house over the years, the secret to going the distance is finding sustenance in knowing God’s presence and work in all of life.

I have moved all the way to the east in this circle of ministry because I know ministry does not exist to meet my needs. I no longer seek satisfaction for the deepest longings of my heart in what I do. The ministry to which I am called flows from that place of sustenance and peace that finds the meaning of life only in living the life God has given me whatever shape that life may take.