Ministry: The world’s easiest job

 

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The woman looked up from her desk in the apartment rental office and asked, “So you are a pastor? A priest?” This did not take clairvoyance on her part. I was wearing a clerical collar. She followed up the question with what I suspect many think but are too polite to say out loud: “That sounds like a cake job. You preach a little message and do a little communion – full-time pay for what, like a 4 hour work week?”

Here is what I have done in the four hours since my four hour a week job was “over”:

  • Had a conversation with a staff member about stepping up their job performance
  • Drove 23 miles to feed the dog of a person in a psych ward
  • Did behind the scenes warming up of board members for future conversations about leadership expectations
  • Provided emotional support to a woman choosing not to treat her reoccurring cancer
  • Talked to a parishioner in jail
  • Supported our children’s workers by lovingly suspending a child from church for a pattern of behaving badly
  • Led a board meeting in which I had to communicate bad news and then help people remain confident in the face of it
  • Anointed a teenager in the hospital who has been shot in the head and prayed with his mom

Don’t misunderstand me, ministry is a fantastic gig. But an easy one? Not so much.

Good thing this is only part-time. People might start having expectations.

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What’s a priest for?

Priest.001In the St. Jude’s Church series on the 39 Articles we come this Sunday to Article 23 – Clergy don’t self-anoint. It is an opportunity to talk about the historic vision of the Church as the gathering of the Body of Christ, and the role of clergy to call Christ’s Bride to worship and holiness of life. And, having worshipped through Word and Sacrament, for the Church to be propelled back into the world for the extension of God’s Kingdom.  Priests pray, teach, offer the Sacraments, preach, declare God’s pardon, bless and console. In short, a priest is to point the people to the Priest: the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-5:4, 10:11-12).

I have the privilege of preaching the next three Sundays. We will move on from the role of clergy to consider the corporate spiritual practices of Baptism and Holy Communion.Snark Meter low.002

Clergy Gone Wild: Clowning Around With Communion.

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Content warning: Sarcastic blog post. Cynicism intended in love.

Awhile back we saw a spate of “interesting” Eucharists. These included, I kid you not, Seuss-charists, Clown-charists, Pirate Eucharists and a tailgate Eucharist at a Baltimore Raven’s game. A youth director friend, Jeremy Knight, and I were thinking one recent evening that there are many imaginative ways to devalue the Holy Eucharist that have yet to be attempted. Here are a few that came readily to mind…

1. Bear-suit-vestmentscharist: What’s more inviting than a guy in a bear suit?

2. The Hobbitcharist - The procession is an Orcish hoard and the host is referred to as “my precious.”

3. Jeopardycharist: “I’ll take the bread and cup for $300, please.”

4. Avatarcharist: It’s just like the “DancesWithWolvescharist” only in 3d.

5. RockyHorrorPictureShowcharist - For children of the ’80’s. Starts at midnight. The virgin gets praised, not spanked and, for the Gloria, we can “Do the Time-warp Again.”

6. StarTrekcharist: Word on the street is that Shatner is a postulant for Holy Orders in L.A.

7. Paintballcharist: Anyone who doesn’t genuflect gets double-tapped.

8. Transformerscharist: Save the planet and uphold a transubstantiationist doctrine at the same time.

9. Nudecharist: Warning, only works with the right celebrant.

10. FindingNemocharist: After all, fish and loaves are biblical imagery.

11. Mariocharist…followed by Super-Mariocharist.

12. Ninjacharist: Don’t mock it, Ninjas will take you out.

13. Ryan Seacristcharist: Just because it sounds funny and, hey, we’re Americans, we can always find a new Idol to worship.

All of which are signs of the apocalypse-charist. And finally…

14. MockGodcharist: Haven’t we already? I really do know that this isn’t anyone’s motive. But we sure look like weirdos here.

I am part of a church with an average age of about 22, not a fuddy-duddy. But even I have to wonder why we have trouble realizing that the Holy Eucharist is, as Prayer A says, “a memorial of our redemption,” and treat it with a little respect.

Anglican Christians know the power of the Eucharist. We know it is the best tool in our toolbox. Our recent oddball Eucharists bring an old aphorism to mind: “to a person with nothing in their toolbox but a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” We know the Eucharist “works,” but is it the only tool in our box? And, if the Eucharist is the “answer” to what ails the Episcopal Church, is it the answer to every question – like the old preacher’s joke about the Sunday School teacher who describes in detail a squirrel and asks the students if they know what the answer is and the kid says, “It sure sounds like a squirrel, but I guess the answer’s supposed to be Jesus.” Can we at least agree that the answer is not to out-weird each other at the altar? How are these odd-sauce Eucharists any different from the shameless attention seeking that we see and critique in the evangelical world…like for example the local church that put an Octogon on their platform and challenged people to “Get in the cage and fight for Jesus”?

When we do these “creative” celebrations of the Lord’s Supper we appear self-referential, theologically squirrelly and missionally clueless. Do we actually believe that if we just dress up the bread, wine and our clergy with enough silliness the world will beat a path to our door?

I have heard it said that these are “great for kids.” Help me understand this, what happens when the kids find out their priest isn’t really a clown? Or (wait for it) that they actually are?

Wouldn’t it be far more helpful if, instead of inviting people to outlandish communion celebrations, we returned to the ancient church practice of going to the world; loving and serving people and speaking of our motivation rooted in the hope we have in the resurrected Christ? Or we could just sit around the office typing up more kooky Eucharists for liturgical junkies. Anyone for a Djangocharist? It would be high-action, and justice oriented – very attractional. We’d pack ‘em in!