here are two of my earliest posts--I started March 3, 2009. Not many people read them since not many people were reading my blog then. I like them.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
My three rules of priesthood
We share a lot and I always learn more from them than they do from me, yet there are three rules of priesthood...I should type that as THREE RULES OF PRIESTHOOD...I seek to pass along in one way or another. They are the three rules I've come up with in 30+ years of doing this and I stand by them.
I. RULE ONE--There is nothing to 'fix'
A lot of people go into ministry because they want to 'fix' things. That's probably one of the reasons I became ordained though it is so long ago I have forgotten it or come to understand how vain and silly it is. THERE IS NOTHING TO FIX. The people I have found most difficulty in supervising are people who come to ministry out of either a social work or psychological background. Every fiber of their being tells them they must 'fix' this or that and that in 'fixing it' they will be justified in what they're doing. Let me say it again: THERE IS NOTHING TO FIX. Don't waste your time and God's trying to fix God's people or God's church. God's people are who they are and if they have a problem that requires 'fixing' there are professionals to do that. Mostly, they're doing just fine, thank you, and leave them alone. Don't invent problems for you to 'fix'. They don't want 'fixing' and the 'problems' will be your invention. Leave them alone. God is watching out for them--your job, as a priest, is to be their leader, their magic person, their friend, if you are privileged enough to be invited that far into their lives.
II. RULE TWO NEVER ACT ON SECOND-HAND INFORMATION, NEVER, EVER...
Scarcely a day goes by when someone doesn't say to me something like: X is so mad about thus and so....you hurt Y's feeling when you....Z needs some help. This is a sub-text of Rule One. It's not just priests who think 'something needs fixed'. Everyone lives out of a context that 'fixing' things is needed. So they will advise you about what needs fixed and who is involved. Don't ignore the message, ponder it in your heart, but whatever you do, don't 'act' on it. You will be a part of a massacre if you do! Let it be. Only deal with problems that are the problems of the person talking with you. Otherwise all you will do is act on second-hand information and be punished for it. Just try it a couple of times and see. X is upset about the sermon but when you ask them 'why are you upset about my sermon?' they'll say, "what, me...? I liked your sermon? Why would you think that?" Try to preach sermons so offensive that those who dislike them will come to you themselves. Don't ever, ever, not ever act on second hand information....
III. RULE THREE: TREAT THE PARISHIONERS AS SMARTER THAN YOU (THEY PROBABLY ARE...)
Don't preach third grade sermons--preach graduate level sermons and expect that you are still not being challenging enough. Lay folks have a great deal more sense than any clergy person imagines or can imagine. They are not sheep who need you to shepherd them--they are shining children of God who need you to treat them as if they were. Never imagine your education puts you 'ahead' of them in any way. These are people who not only come to church without being paid to (as clergy are!) they are people who pay for the privilege of coming to hear your nonsense. They aren't children and you aren't grown up. Treat them as peers and you'll be surprised to discover that they are you peers--and ahead of you in lots of ways. I hate it when a clergy person refers to the congregation s/he serves as "my people". They aren't "your people", Bozo, they are God's people and you are their hired hand. Don't dare 'lord it over them' in any way. It is the 'self fulfilling prophecy' acted out in parish life. They will be (those people who 'aren't' yours) exactly who you expect them to be. Expect them to be smarter than you. Never mind that it is true...really true...it will give you some work to do to keep up with them....
Saturday, March 14, 2009
falling on your face
Then there is the conceit in the Old Testament that whenever an Angel or "the Holy" shows up, people "fall on their faces". That doesn't mean taking an attitude of worship, by the way. The Hebrew word is more like "get knocked down". Being in the presence of the Holy simply sweeps your feet from beneath you and you sprawl out on the ground.
Last night, walking my dog, we went down a little paved area that leads to the Congregational Church parking lot. It was stone cold dark, but I walk that road a lot so I wasn't worried. Besides, when they repaved the area last fall, they took out the speed bumps that used to trip me from time to time. On the way back through darkness as dark as the black almost to blue color of my my Puli dog, I discovered much to my surprise, that there was an un-removed piece of speed bump and I tripped over it in my sandals (the weather up to 20 F at night now), let go of the leash, dodged the dog and fell on my face. I hurt each wrist a little breaking my fall, but my forehead and nose hit a rock that the folks who live beside this access road have put up to keep people from driving on their yard. I didn't break my glasses, but I busted my nose and smashed my forehead into the moss covered rock. (I know it's moss covered since I visited it this morning looking for 'trace evidence' of my fall!)
It would be a much more interesting story if I had been visited by an angel or gotten beaten up in a bar fight ("you should have seen the other guy!")
As it was, I just fell on my face and since face and head wounds bleed like crazy, I was like a character out of Friday the Thirteenth, which, oddly enough, it was....I was all ready to warn Bern that it looked worse than it was when she saw me and then took tender, wondrous care of me.
There are three times in the 14 stations of the cross when Jesus falls. My fall was nothing so dramatic or important as that. But I fell and was bleeding like a stuck pig (I've never understood that figure of speech) when I got home. Bern nursed me and cared for me and we still go to watch the West Virginia University/Syracuse University semi-final in the Big East tournament.
Several people asked me today, "which emergency room did you go to?" and I responded, "there was a WVU basketball game on TV--you have to have some priorities...."
I will be fine--a little more humility (I need all that I can get) and another (as if I needed one) insight into my mortality. My wrists ache as I type this, but if they hadn't broken my fall a bit, I might not be typing this at all.
Human heads and big honking moss covered rocks about 90 pounds do not meet without violence.
Bela, my dog, sat and waited for me to find my sandals, somehow get up, find his leash and lead him home. I wonder what he was thinking--but wondering what animals are thinking will send you over the edge....
Face on a rock is surely in the same category as 'face on the pavement'. Humility and pain aren't a bad couple for Friday 13th or for Lent, when you think of it.
I just wish there was a better story to tell about my wounded and swollen visage.