Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Throwing Jesus Off the Cliff

I've had a number of comments, both here and by email, around this topic of "getting mad at the pastor" and someone asked for the reference about Jesus nearly getting thrown off the cliff. The story starts out well-- after the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returns to his hometown.

14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

At first glance, all seems to be going swimmingly. Jesus reads from Isaiah, and the words are incredibly encouraging and hopeful, and he even goes so far as to say, "This is IT. It's happening NOW." The locals, the ones who watched as Jesus grew up in Mary and Joseph's home, are thrilled.

Then things get a little funky.

23He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Suddenly, the word the people had heard as comforting gets turned around a bit-- indeed, it becomes clear pretty quickly that they believe it's been turned on them. The gist of what Jesus is saying is, the good news of God's love extends beyond the boundaries of religion and race and ethnicity. The good news of God's love went to a widow who wasn't a Jew. The good news of God's love extended to a leper who was leading an enemy army. Ooops. It's all right there in scripture. Guess what? God is bigger than the little categories you and I try to lock her in.

28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. ~ Luke 4:14-30

Yeah, that really comes as no surprise.  The people perceived that the good news had turned bad. Solution: get rid of the pesky prophet. But something stopped them. And along Jesus went on his merry way.

I think congregations and congregation members get mad at pastors for all sorts of reasons. Some are not so cool with the fullness of the pastor's identity coming to the fore. (Thank God, I had only a little of that when I came out). Some feel neglected by the pastor, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. Sometimes the congregation and the pastor have different ideas of mission and what it means to do ministry together-- just a case of a bad match. Sometimes it's so intangible it's hard to put into words why these relationships take a southward turn.

I am interested in the question asked in the comments. For those in ordained ministry, how do you respond when the anger of your congregants becomes an issue? How does it feel? How do you cope? And how do you know when (if) it's time to go?

I'm grateful to say that I am not dealing with anything like this in my ministry at present (that I know of... sometimes I realize anger and hurt lurk quietly for a long time). But I know many of my colleagues deal with it. What say you? And-- how about this-- how do you deal with your own anger?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cleaning Up My Act

So here's my plan. My plan is, in response to your emails and comments, keep "(un) closeted pastor" going, but with an emphasis on what the title says: what it's like going about my business as a pastor out and about in my neck of the woods. My personal stuff will be kept private, which is appropriate (though you can certainly expect Beloved, Larry and Petra to make the occasional appearance on these pages). I do have a story to share about trusting God as God reveals my truth to me-- and believe me, that happens at least once a day if I'm paying attention at all. (And sometimes, you know, I'm not, because that's what it's like to be an unfinished, incomplete, under construction kind of person-- i.e., human).

I'm still trying to parse and work on my private situation. I will say this: I hate the idea that I've caused pain, and that someone is angry with me, especially a family member. It's painful, it's not what I want. It takes real discipline for me to deal with it like a grown up, and I do not always have that particular tool available to me. So I covet your prayers in this area.

Let me add, on a related note, this is one of the major personality characteristics that is challenging for me as a pastor. Because, let's face it, after his first sermon they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. If we don't ruffle feathers now and then we're probably not doing our work with integrity.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a real community. Thanks for the love. Love you back.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Better-Late-Than-Never Department...

... Last Sunday's sermon, here.

I am pondering the feedback I've gotten from many of you regarding the blog. I am trying to figure out a way to keep this blog going, minus the intensely personal stuff... I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Change of Seasons

It is time for this blog to go from being public to private. Suffice to say, I have been somewhat foolish in believing I could be so open about much that is very intimate in a public forum. Beloved warned me, God bless her. But I have learned that someone was very hurt by something I wrote here-- something I believed sincerely to be true, but which I am open to having clarified. In the wake of this, I recognize that therapy is therapy, blogs are blogs, and I have crossed that line here in a way that has the potential to hurt others, even if I believe I am speaking my truth from the heart.

So. Those of you who are interested in remaining connected with this blog, please send an email to revceciliapastorATyahooDOTcom. I will go private in a week or so.

In the meantime, I will ponder how I might repair the damage I have done.

Sunday, October 3, 2010