“The job of president [read that “pastor”] is to cope with his own coming tragedy. No man can fulfill all the hopes that go with the office. His own strengths often undo him.” This is a sentence penned by Michael Novak in reference to our new president. It seems to apply to pastors, too. No matter how much God uses you, at the end of the day it could have been more. I think the farther you go in ministry, the more that occurs to you. What do you do with that awareness? I don’t think most pastors are ready for that to occur to them, and when it does, a dark night of the soul can set in. There are no “do overs.” And there comes a time where there are no more “do mores.” (pardon the grammar) What a people do with that sense is determinative for how they end, drained or eager, distraught or thankful. No matter what, get ready to cope with your own coming tragedy and cast yourself on the mercy of Christ. And this isn’t a word for pastors alone. We will all see what could have been, and I think that is a weight that can’t be carried without Christ.
Thanks to iMonk for the link. In my book, Mark is one of the “good guys.” I wouldn’t go to his church, but that is a matter of style and method, not message nor motivation. He is a good corrective to the boomer church where all is sweetness and smoothness and Starbucks coffee. I am a “mild Calvinist” and I enjoy someone preaching the Reformed position in his manner. Even though JI Packer isn’t a parish pastor, I enjoy his style the more. He is fervently evangelical, deeply expositional, and insists on the conversion of the mind as well as the heart. Maybe it’s just me but I am not totally into preachers who I would be afraid of disagreeing with. Driscoll is one of those. But I think that is more my issue than his. I grew up fundamentalist and even though I did not have a bad experience (in fact I loved my church, especially Mrs. Toyer’s curry dish!!!), I have learned to distrust overbearing preachers who seem to rely too much on force of personality than the invitation to conversation that seemed to characterize Jesus, except when he was facing down the religious establishment. Interestingly enough, the overbearing types often cite Jesus’ style of confrontation as their model, but they do not take into account what audience he was addressing. I think one of the things that keeps me on the outer edges of the evangelical subculture is its attraction to Driscoll types. My preferences in communication style lean more to the Rob Bell communication pattern in addition to JI Packer. I think Driscoll’s style can feed the “I want to be right and I want you to be wrong” mindset that can kill relationships and keep religion hurting people (the wrong kind of hurting, I mean). Bell makes an ample use of questions, just like Jesus did and Socrates 400 years before Jesus. Being deeply in touch with mystery and knowing what you don’t know invites people to a more authentic experience of knowing God. No danger of mysticism with Driscoll.
John Updike has just passed, and thanks to BTW, I have this poem to post for you. I have so enjoyed both the books of Updike and his interviews. He makes for a thoughtful conversation.
SEVEN STANZAS AT EASTER
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
“We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor.”
— Martin Luther
Here is the link. And here is the money shot:
“I was hoping — against hope — that The Trials of Ted Haggard would document his walking into the light. It doesn’t. It captures his attempt to reenter the limelight. It’s agonizing to watch Haggard gather the pieces of his life, shuffle from temporary home to temporary home, and learn how to make an honest buck. It’s terrible to watch him suffer. But what is most painful is the question the documentary doesn’t ask:Why? Why, just a few months after Haggard and his family suffered an unspeakable tragedy in public view, would he invite the cameras back? Why would he want his story documented and sold in this way? Anyone who cares about Haggard, as I do, must see this comeback as a continuation of his tragedy.”
Here is the Washington Post article. Tracking Ted can be a full-time job!!! There is some value here. His journey gives an insight into this thing we call evangelicalism. For a long time Ted was treading water in the evangelical pond, and it is still his natural habitat. But the question remains how a guy like Ted remains engaged with evangelicalism having done what he did and being “complex” (as he puts it) as he is. Is there room for him? In what way? As the story comes out about how his church handled him we will gain more and more knowledge about what we believe about redemption, reconciliation and the deep and often unfathomable complexities of the human spirit. No one ever defends the level of dishonesty, but we all know that we live at varying levels of dishonesty. Do our churches really provide a way to come clean, make a fresh start, be accepted for the compromised people we really are? Or is it to be shown the door once how human you are becomes known? This is where religion as we know can become a pathology. It begins to hurt people. Church can become like a hospital where you can’t tell the doctor how sick you are. There has to be a better way.
Believing as I do that the greatest need of the hour is a revived and joyful Church the subject dealt with in these sermons is to me of the greatest possible importance. Unhappy Christians are, to say the least, a poor recommendation for the Christian Faith; and there can be little doubt but that the exuberant joy of the early Christians was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity Martin Lloyd-Jones