In 1988, as a young man angry at the world, seeking meaning, which at the time I thought might be the Canadian military, this denomination of ours evangelised me. This romanticised memory has left me with an ongoing wrestling that often evokes, for me, the image Jacob and the Angel at the river.
For those graduating from the DLM, this year, or those continuing to learn and pastor, let me leave you with this punchline. As long as your discipleship is driven by a confidence in faith, not the lull of ego, you will everyday be seed sowing. You may never know where those seeds may evangelise, but take faith that your every choice and action, every decision and caring ear offered are faithful models for those who shall follow.
As I have considered Jim’s offer to share 50 minutes … sorry 5 minute musing, I invite us to hold on this age old tension:
As a pastor, can you also be a prophet?
I want you to consider this question in the light of the idea that change is the one constant that runs through our scriptures. The other is the desire for the very thing this means we cannot have: stability. If this last year of the pandemic has made anything clear to me, it is that our veneer of the immutability of our church is an illusion we can no longer have the privilege to afford.
From exile to oppression, from oppressor to liberator, our faith journey is not about constancy. If there is any anchor, as you pastor, it is Creator. And even our relationship with Her is always changing.
The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with a sort of relational awakening in which God says one thing and we, those invited to co-Create, call foul. We challenge and lament, we beg and reprimand. In the Second Testament, Jesus confronts this consistently.
Whether the Syrophoenician woman, the demands of the crowds or swirling dervish-like-children, Jesus finds demands placed on him. He finds his prophesising pastorally challenged.
It is one thing to say the kingdom of God is an unconditionally welcoming and loving place, but this voice can be heard as a counterpoint: “but you still treat yours dogs better than we who are inspired by your preaching!”
As a pastor, can you also be a prophet?
This is not a rhetorical question. It ran consistently through my own seminary formation at the Centre for Christian Studies. It has been part of the Core Community’s monthly questioning. So, let me put it out there: No, we cannot … but, Jesus own evolving ministry might point to yes ….
I rarely live in an either/or world, but I suggestively offer this is one those times. So, let’s try to navigate this.
First of all, our Hebrew Scriptures prophets, and most since then, are, well, jerks. Doesn’t mean their wrong, but they take Creator’s demands and make clear binaries. Right and wrong are easy to throw around but living in the ambiguity and complexity of community does not translate into a prophet being heard. Usually, they aren’t and … usually they don’t care.
Now, I realise “they don’t care” is sweeping and, perhaps, a little argumentative but I am going to let this stand. Caring for prophets, in regard to communal and personal relationships when we come together as community, is not a primary concern. There is a reason prophets often get kicked out of their own homes, live with camel wardrobes and generally aren’t invited to a spring BBQ.
Now, the pastor … well you do live in the ambiguity of change. Whether that’s at milestones such as life’s joys or endings, congregations trying to figure out mission as a post-Settler institution, or a denomination too long stuck in a deficit world, you do care. Your vocation demands this of you, just as Creator demands of prophets to yell binaries. Where then is the balance?
Let me leave us with this. Jesus’ own ministry seems to develop holding these two roles together, though they remain in tension. There is no neat answer, no hospital corners or simple platitude when we hold paradox. Pastors, as a blessed and not an always easy call, means you have to find ways for those who love you and whom you love to hear the prophets. You can share prophesy, but to do so requires pastoral trust.
That trust will get called upon. For those moving on from Circle, and those continuing to study and minister, when it is time to speak prophetically, are you doing so from the trappings of ego or the confidence of faith?