Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here, Put This On

I am a toddler trout fisherman. Years of angling other fish has helped with the basics, but the more I learn about trout the more aware I become of my own ignorance. So, I ask questions. For instance, when Kevin tied a fly on my line in the boat on the Juan (that's insider lingo for the San Juan River, which, when I use that lingo, makes me feel much more knowledgable than I really am). So, when Kevin tied on a fly I asked what it was. I now knew the name, but could not have picked it out of a dozen other dry flies.

I am not, however, a toddler pastor. I have fifteen years of experience, on the job training. The passage I read in Eugene Peterson's, Under The Unpredictable Plant, would have meant little to me ten years ago. Today it is meat, though not the kind of meat that feeds the ego or the emotional center. It is the kind of meat that feeds a soul that is bent on finishing a marathon, rather than a sprint. He warns those of us who pastor people of the great danger of our own professionalism, of which our lingo is but an omen.

"Jonah's pouting displeasure (that God did not destroy Ninevah) betrays his complete indifference to God, God's ways, and the peple who have just become God's people (the Ninevites). . . He cares nothing for the congregation but only for the literal and dominating authority of his own preaching. He has preached destruction in forty days, and, by God, destruction it had better be. . . I do my work. I carry out my responsibilities of word and sacrament. I visit the sick and comfort the grieving. I show up in church on time to conduct Sunday worship, pray when asked over the church suppers, and play second base at the annual church picnic softball game. But in this life of obedience it turns out there is a steady attrition of ego satisfaction, for as I carry out my work I find that people are less and less responding to me and more and more responding to God. They hear different things in my sermon that I have so very carefully spoken, and I am offended in their attention. They find ways of being responsible to the spirit of God that don't fit into the plans that I have made for the congregation - plans that, with their cooperation, would not only serve to glorify God but would redound to my credit as one of his first-rank leaders."