Word of the Week

A Pastor's Vocation

Yesterday after officiating a memorial service for a beloved member of Washington Plaza who died last month, several folks came up to me after the service to talk about how beautifully the choir sang (they were great!), how lovely the shared remembrances were spoken by family members were (special words from the grand and great-grandchildren, especially), and how I seemed to be able to describe the deceased man so well in my remarks.

I kept hearing folks saying the same thing over and over: "You have only been at the church 8 months? Are you sure? You seemed to really hit his character and spiritual sense right on. How could you do that in such a short time of knowing him?"

I believe my short answer was that I was allowed in to the  deceased man's life in meaningful ways. He welcomed my invitations to get to know him better and I welcomed his. We had several occasions just to sit and be with each other. I felt like through these times I was able to really enjoy the company and learn from the dear soul.

But ultimately this is something I view as not out of the ordinary. It is what I hope I am able to do with all members of the congregation. It is what being a pastor is all about.

Always, I welcome the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with individuals and groups about the stuff in our lives that really matters. I love the chance to get pass false pretenses and have my world view changed through understanding someone else's perspective. I value the trust that is placed in me when persons seek me out to be their pastor. These reasons and many more are why I love my job.

And, as I am doing my job, I hope that I am blessed with some God-given discernment to really know those who are given to my care . . . what makes the tick, what excites them, what saddens them, what makes them afraid and how I can fit in and be an encouragement. Most of all this begins with listening and listening well.

And when it comes time for me to preach a funeral, or an Sunday sermon on  average day in September, or at a summer wedding, my vocation is to say what is needed as the shepherd of the community. Hoping that as I do, the Spirit will be present, speaking in and about, and around (if necessary) my words.

Because really this is an important part of a pastor's vocation in the first place: knowing people to the degree that God's presence can be recognized and maybe understood a little more with each passing year as we build a community of faith.

Let us continue to listen well to one another as we are in service to God together. And, as we do, I know there will always been plentiful words when the time comes to say them.