Someone Else’s Thoughts on Becoming a Pastor

Pastor and writer R.F. Capon shares his thoughts on the vocation of becoming a pastor. It’s based on Luke 12:35-40. He’s pretty much a total badass. Enjoy!

“In light of this text, then, preachers of the Word labor under three distinct requirements.

First, they are to be faithful. They are called to believe, and they are called only to believe. They are not called to know, or to be clever, or to be proficient, or to be energetic, or to be talented, or to be well-adjusted. Their vocation is simply to be faithful waiters on the mystery of Jesus’ coming in death and resurrection. What the world needs to hear from them is not any of their ideas, bright or dim: none of those can save a single soul. Rather, it needs to hear – and above all to see – their own commitment to the ministry of waiting for, and waiting on, the only Lord who has the keys of death.

Second, the clergy are to be wise. They are not to be fools, rich or poor, who think that salvation can come to anyone as a result of living. The world is already drowning in its efforts at life; it does not need lifeguards who swim to it carrying the barbell weights of their own moral and spiritual efforts. Preachers are to come honestly empty-handed to the world, because anyone who comes bearing more than the folly of the kerygma – of the preaching of the word of the cross – has missed completely the foolishness of God that is wiser than humans. The wise steward, therefore, is the one who knows that God has stood all known values on their heads – that as Paul says, he has not chosen the wise, or the mighty, or the socially adept, but rather he has chosen what the world considers weak in order to shame the strong. The clergy are worth their salt only if they understand that God deals out salvation solely through the klutzes and the nobodies of the world. If they think God is waiting for them to provide classier help, they should do everybody a favor and get out of the preaching business. Let them do less foolish work. Let them sell junk bonds.

But it is the third of these clerical requirements that strikes me as the most telling: preachers are stewards whom the Lord has ‘set over his household servants to provide them with food at the proper time.’ After all these years the church has suffered under forceful preachers and winning orators, under compelling pulpiteers and clerical bigmouths with egos to match, how nice to hear that Jesus expects preachers in their congregations to be nothing more than faithful household cooks. Not gourmet chefs, not banquet managers, not caterers to thousands, just Gospel pot-rattlers who can turn out a decent, nourishing meal once a week. And not even a whole meal, perhaps; only the right food at the proper time. On most Sundays, maybe all it has to be is meat, pasta, and a vegetable. Not every sermon needs to be prefaced by a cocktail hour full of the homiletical equivalent of Vienna sausages and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts; nor need nourishing preaching always be dramatically concluded with a dessert of flambéed sentiment and soufleed prose. The preacher has only to deliver food, not flash; Gospel, not uplift. And the preacher’s family doesn’t even have to like it. If it’s good food at the right time, they can bellyache all they want: as long as they get enough death and resurrection, some day they may even realize they’ve been well fed.

So much for the faithful preacher… [But] if the preacher gets tired of the foolishness of the Gospel and begins to amuse herself with her own versions of intelligible fun and games – whether by exploiting her fellow servants’ bodies, or by intellectually devouring their souls like cheese puffs – then the Lord of that preacher ‘will come on a day she does not expect and at a time she does not know, and he will cut her up in little pieces and appoint her portion with the unfaithful.’”

Damn.

That’s good stuff.

Cheers,
Eric

 

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