Sunday, July 11, 2021

There Has to be a Reason?

The Red River of the North does not go straight!
During the final year of Confirmation Instruction (1969), I was positively impacted by the pastor. He was personable, took interest in each student, and helped place Christian faith and Lutheran traditions in practical terms. I thought being a pastor might be in my future, EXCEPT I could not sing (the pastor had a great voice) and speaking in front of people petrified me. A couple of months following the Rite of Confirmation, the pastor was asked to resign by one of the Parish's congregations. He was not "traditional" enough. In current terms, he was too liberal and/or too relevant. 

Entering college my plans were to become a physician. Too much competition and too much socialization (partying) changed those plans. Next up (at the next collage) was becoming a teacher. My advisor stated numerous times that teachers would be "a dime a dozen." Well, strike two! If all else fails a history and philosophy major can apply for law school. My job as the evening janitor at a large congregation in Mankato MN (3rd college in 3 years and final college) brought me into contact with the three pastors on staff. Two of them had a direct, positive impact on my turbulent, personal struggles. So, why not become a pastor? I had thought about it before. Still the fear of public speaking and the lack of musical ability loomed large.

Graduate school to earn a Master of Divinity degree began with an intensive summer course in New Testament Greek. The cadre of students shared study time and communal time. A fellow student, after I spoke about my oldest brother's death by drowning with alcohol being a factor said, "God used your brother's death to get you to seminary." My initial reaction was to tell this person to go to hell. I realized that would not be appropriate in the setting. So I responded, "God must be a crazed risk taker to use my brother's death that way.  I am trying to get through Greek. Becoming a pastor may never happen." 

We like things straight.
The belief that there is a reason for everything may provide surface level comfort. Yet this is a Western Civilization concept. Greek and Roman rational thinking provides the foundation for "There has to be a reason" world view. Looking at the world from a limited construct, while important for initial education detracts from experiential learning. It is in the everyday, empirical evidence where I have grown in faith. Answers are derived from experiment and trail and error. Faith is not a rational construct, but relational interaction. Faith has raised up more questions than it has provided answers. 

A major struggle in life has been with hypocrisy. It was ingrained that people, life, events, and interactions should be linear and rationally understandable. While seeing hypocrisy in other was disturbing, finally owning my hypocrisy had me standing on the precipice of devastation. Pastoral care based on theory while neglecting lived experience was for me similar to Jacob wrestling with God. (Genesis 32.22+) Four decades of pastoral ministry has produced struggles, healing, scars, and perseverance. None of it has been defined and understandable let alone rational. I have ceased trying to place life and faith into the confines of reason. I have come to find life and faith in the embrace of "what is." I believe that a power greater than myself has provided opportunities, more than one boot in the behind, and plenty of grace to empower my vocation for so long. 

Person 1: “I refuse to go to church because it is filled with hypocrites.”

Curves add adventure!

Person 2: “I am not certain where you have gone before, but we have plenty of room!”

THANK YOU for reading! I will continue to look back at my 40 years in pastoral ministry both in my YouTube videos and in this blog for a number of weeks.

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