Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pastoral superpowers?

It seems I have a secret superpower.

My kids (both teenagers) occasionally will move closer to me or grab my arm for protection.  OK - that seems strange without the context.  It's more or less a game they play.  One of them will say something that they feel is displeasing to God, and then move next to me to avoid heavenly repercussions - all the while laughing at their joke.  For example, last night, my son was talking about a food item (foods are high on the list of 14 year old boys interests) and he said with admiration and a bit of hungry longing, "_(food item)_ is god."  Then he grabbed my shoulder for protection, and laughed, "God won't strike me down for saying that if I hang on to you, 'cause you're a pastor."  Then he asked, a tiny bit more seriously, "Was that blasphemy?"

I said something reassuring to the effect that he should talk to God about it, God has a sense of humor and probably understood it in the context he meant it.  Inside, I was thinking, yeah, it probably is pretty close to blasphemy - I mean we come perilously close to worshipping those things we compare to God.  And I was pretty impressed that my son knew what blasphemy was and could identify it.  Seems he was listening in confirmation class!

Back to my superpower.  Apparently, my kids have this belief that because I have gone to seminary and am waiting on a call to my first congregation (pastor-in-waiting, pastor-wanna-be) I have the supernatural ability to deflect God's wrath from "lesser" human beings.  Their logic goes something like this:  God called you to be a pastor, so you must have something we don't and besides, you went to seminary and did all that work so God wouldn't strike you down because God's put a lot of time and effort into making you ready to be a pastor, so if we stand close to you, we're safe.

I know my kids are joking and it's just a family game.  But deep inside, it kinds bugs me for two reasons.

1.  God is not in the business of smiting people.  Seriously.  If God were to strike down everyone who broke a commandment, say, took the Lord's name in vain, I am pretty sure there would be no one left on earth.  That's just not the way God works.  God is a God of second, third, fourth (and more) chances.  If Christmas, Good Friday and Easter teach us anything, it is that God loves us so much that God became one of us, shares our joys and sorrows, and was willing to do whatever it took (even death on a cross), is willing to do whatever it takes,  to show us  just how amazingly enormous that love is.  God is more about grace and mercy than smiting.  And the only one you can get closer to to be 'safe' is Jesus. 

2.  Pastors are not some God-enhanced "super-Christian."  We are regular people, just like everyone else.  We are both saints and sinners.  God does not favor pastors over 'regular' Christians.  We don't have a special spot in heaven or enhanced access to God.  The pastor's prayers do not carry more weight with God.  If anything, I suspect God listens with more joy to the heartfelt prayer of someone who is first learning to pray than to the practiced prayer of pastors (not that pastors' prayers are not heartfelt. God enjoys them too!).  Pastors are subject to the same temptations as everyone else. They get too tired to pray and there are times when they don't want to get out of bed on Sundays either.  The only difference between pastors and everyone else, is seminary (which only makes us seem smarter and more spiritual), and where God has called them to serve (God calls everyone to serve - some serve in congregations, some as nurses or teachers, or accountants, or parents or neighbors - we are called to serve where we are!).  Pastors are (mostly) further along on their spiritual journey (but not always), which helps them to minister to others.  And pastors have spiritual gifts that make them suited for ministry, but everyone has spiritual gifts that empower them to serve in unique ways.

So, I don't really have supernatural access to God.  And neither does your pastor  - nor that woman whose been coming to church for 50 years and knows the Bible inside and out.  Neither does that man in your congregation whose prayers sound so much better than yours, or that person who seems to have their spiritual life all together.

If anyone has special access to God, Jesus tells is, it's children (Mark 10:14-15). 

Hmmm....maybe I should grab onto my kids instead of the other way around.

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