Friday, February 18, 2005

Why I am a pastor

“Why are you a pastor?” the young man asked.

I couldn’t blame him for asking. It seems like a bizarre job for someone my age. The word "pastor" often evokes images of a graying, black clad, humourless, hard ass who’s only job is to sap the world of earthly pleasures. All in Jesus' name.

He left a stain on a young guy's soul that may never be removed.

“But why would you attach yourself to a losing team?” he continued. “There must be a better way to do good for the world then to play religious games that fewer and fewer people want to play.”

“But where else would you see God working? I mean really working.” I ask.

Yes, I know that God is everywhere but God has promised to work through God’s people - Us. The church. Think about how odd that sounds. The young guy's questions cut too close.

God has chosen church-folks to be the instrument of salvation and healing that God wants for the world. Weak. Petty. Squabbling. Us. It's a wonder a light bulb gets changed in the church.

Based on my own experience, the stuff we do is not the sort of stuff that makes it on the 6:00 news, but it is the normal, everyday miracles that happen in the church all the time. God's work get done.

Like the young woman who rolling into the Greyhound Station just weeks before Christmas, escaped with her kids from the nightmare of an abusive relationship; out of food and out money, she asks the church to help her get through the season. No one makes a big fuss. The woman’s group helps her pay her rent, and another buys Christmas presents for her two young children. Another makes arrangements to meet with her to see how she’s getting along.

Or like on Easter Sunday, “the crazy woman is back” the kids murmur gleefully to each other. Her squeaky old wheelchair takes up the whole of the centre aisle in an already packed church. She closes her eyes and sways to the soothing music of the organ prelude; her face is flush with peace. During the announcements, she boorishly interrupts the pastor to bear spontaneous testimony – how God has richly blessed her with a church she loves and people with whom she can pray. People who stand by her despite her occasional "episodes." For her, she says, that is resurrection. The kids in the back smile widely. She smiles back. Resurrection, indeed.

Or like the older man visiting the nursing home, holding the hand of a long-time member who cannot hear, see, or speak, and is drawing her last breaths. He stays with her all night, gently stroking her hand as she softly slips into eternity. “No one,” he says, “deserves to die alone.”

"I could go on and on but you get point." I tell the young man. "No matter how bad things get, the gospel always seems to 'work.' All we can do is be faithful to our message of salvation and new life in Jesus, and to keep our eyes open to where God is around us. Where else would that happen? And I get a from row seat when it all starts happening."

That's why I’m a pastor.

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