Once again I have been saved by the wisdom of Eugene Peterson. His book, Under the Unpredictable Plant arrived in the post today (thanks to Amazon and Royal Mail and Terry the postman), and just about became the Word of the Lord to me, and how I needed it as I began to spiral down into a terrible post-ordained apocalyptic storm of self-pity!
“Propagandists are abroad in the land lying to us about what congregations are and can be. They are lying for money. They want to make us discontent with what we are doing so we will buy a solution from them that they promise will restore our virility to our impotent congregations. The profit-taking among those who market these spiritual monkey glands indicates that pastoral gullibility in these matters is endless. Pastors, faced with the failure of the purchased procedures, typically blame the congregation and leave it for another. The devil, who is behind all this smiling and lacquered mischief, so easily makes us discontent with what we are doing that we throw up our hands in the middle of it, disgusted, and go on to another parish that will appreciate our gifts and ministry and our devotion to the Lord. Every time a pastor abandons one congregation for another out of boredom or anger or restlessness, the pastoral vocation of all of us is vitiated.” p.18
The very next sub-heading title, following the words above were like a train hitting me in the spiritual slobiness I mistook for self-justification. The words were:
Stay Where You Are
If ever I needed to hear those words it was right now. God to the rescue through the pen and anointed ink of Eugene Peterson. To all my fellow pastor brothers and sisters: Stick with it. You have a high calling indeed. Do not conform to the pattern of this world and sell your soul to religiously cheap versions of capitalism and consumerism. We are ministers of the Gospel, called and sent to proclaim Jesus Christ and all His goodness.
And the reason He must be proclaimed is because we live in a world of sin where the people we serve are luke-warm at best. Let Jesus spit them out of His mouth – pastors do not spit out the very people God has entrusted to us. Jesus does that, that’s what Scripture says; let us not be found spitting out the people of God from our mouth; our mouth is set apart to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel. He is the Saviour, not us. We serve. We love and serve. We love and serve and preach. We love and serve and preach and love.
Peterson goes on, magnificently (p.172) to say what pastors do. He says it is simple, and on one level I agree, on the only other level available it is the most complex, most profound ‘doing’ any human being can be involved in, he writes that a pastor’s vocation is to “…say the word God accurately….”
That to me, speaks more of my vocation or role as a pastor that anything else. Speak ‘God’ accurately. WOW. I am tempted, like Job, to clasp my hands over my mouth and speak no more, but God in His glorious Triunity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has called and commanded me to speak of Him and His mystery and majesty. To speak of Him accurately. That’s what He has called me to do, and he will do it because He is faithful.