People are strange...

Being a pastor is always... what?  Fun (no) - interesting (mostly) - challenging (sometimes) - weird?  YES that's it: WEIRD!  And I suspect that it has always been weird - in the lst or the 21st - century because, let's face it, Jim Morrison was right:  PEOPLE ARE STRANGE.  (Mostly lovable, often fickle but always strange.)
Yesterday, for example, I was in a conversation with a person of means who has chosen to decrease their annual financial gift to the church. Not because of any theological or pastoral problem - and not because we are using monies unwisely or unfaithfully - and certainly not because it is beyond this person's ability. No, after telling me, "I don't get much out of church these days..." (to which the response is ALWAYS well how much do you bring? or Well worship isn't about YOU!) the fundamental reason given for the decrease is because "I'm just a Sermon on the Mount kind of person..."  
Now, if you are as baffled by what that means as I am (now and then, truth be told) you might want to know my initial response. "Really? Christ's sermon on the mount? The one about radical servanthood, total dedication to the cause of the Lord and going well beyond the extra mile?  THAT sermon on the mount?"  To which came the straight faced reply, "YES, that sermon on the mount."  

So I paused, thinking to myself, "Dude, if you are REALLY a sermon on the mount kind of person you would be giving EVERYTHING to the cause of Christ rather than playing this charade," but remember I'm a pastor and this work is weird.  So I simply say, "I think you are off the mark with your reading because the sermon on the mount is about radical servanthood - living into the way of the cross - and trusting God in a bold way.  But you're going to do what you want to do no matter what I tell you about the Bible.... so there you go."  To which this soul smiled, suggested that maybe their gift might be bigger, shook my hand and departed.

Ok, I totally agree there are WEIRDER things people do and say but this just hit me hard. Perhaps because after 7 years of renewal ministry things are really starting to buzz - and we really need the financial support.  Maybe because the core of leadership works so hard in what I think of as sacrificial ways that these words seem like a cavalier and flip slap in the face. Or maybe my head cold is just making me extra cranky today and I should go take a nap. Probably it is a bit of all three, yes?

Almost 30 years ago one of my mentors told me that we should never go into this work to be appreciated. "Remember the story of the lepers who were cleansed by Jesus? Only one of the 12 came back to offer a word of thanks.  So don't expect gratitude doing this stuff." After all, the central symbol of this faith is a Cross, right?  As Advent ripens, I want to affirm that no matter how weird and strange we all are, God's grace is bigger and better.  Still every now and again I have to step back and listen to this song...

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