The wisdom of Eugene Peterson's to pastors - your work is to be unbusy, subversive and apocalyptic - has been on my mind of late as another week of ministry comes to a close and I settle into my Sabbath.
Peterson writes:People are not comfortable with God in their lives. They prefer something less awesome and more informal. Something, in fact, like the (traditional) pastor. Reassuring, accessible, easygoing. People would rather talk to the pastor than to God…We are NOT called to waste God's time. We are NOT called to distract our congregations with meaningless busy work that sounds holy but is all empty calories. No, we are called into the fierce urgency of now with tenderness and patience - trusting all the while that God is in charge and we are not.
So (often) pastors, instead of practicing prayer, which brings people into the presence of God, enter into the practice of messiah: we will do the work of God for God, fix people up, tell them what to do, conspire in finding the shortcuts by which the long journey to the Cross can be bypassed since we all have such crowded schedules right now. People love us when we do this. It is flattering to be put in the place of God. It feels wonderful to be treated in the godlike way. And it is work that we are generally quite good at.
A sense of apocalypse (urgency) blows the whistle on such messianic pastoring. The vastness of the heavenly invasion, the urgency of the faith decision, the danger of the impinging culture—with these pouring into our consciousness accompanied by thunder and lightning, we cannot stand around on the street corners of Sunday morning filling the time with pretentious small talk on how bad the world is and how wonderful this new stewardship campaign is going to be. If we have even an inkling of apocalypse, it will be impossible to act like the jaunty foreman of a home-improvement work crew that is going to re-landscape moral (or immoral) garden spots. We must pray. The world has been invaded by God and it is with God we have to do.
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