Following the two-year daily lectionary, this week we started reading through 1 Corinthians. Today, as we read most of the second chapter, we read these words from St. Paul:
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power. (2 Cor 1.1-5, CSB)
As a chaplain, these words have always gripped me. Officially, the Air Force wants me to faithfully represent my denominational tradition and ensure each Airmen's right to freedom of religion. To do that, I come to Airmen, as St. Paul, announcing the mystery of God, preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified. Unofficially, the Air Force loves (and very often promotes) chaplains who are essentially acting as social workers, motivational speakers, and cheerleaders--nothing against any of those groups, but my role is totally different. Christian chaplains must continually remind ourselves of our calling, which is to pastor and shepherd in the name of Christ. We do encourage, assist, and advocate for any Airmen, but if this is all we do, we're missing the point of our calling, and the military could save ton of money employing people with those skill sets and training, which are arguably less rigorous than they require of chaplains.
In the local parish, pastors would do well to similarly remind themselves of their calling. Pastors are not life coaches, motivational speakers, social workers, or anything less than emissaries of the Triune God, proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, those God-ordained means of grace for building the church, preserving the faith, and healing the world.
Shame on us, as parishioners, for accepting the former, while chasing after the glitter and acceptance of the world, instead of the latter, which our souls desperately need. We need shepherds for our souls, not simply cheerleaders trying to stoke our emotions. We need the honest conviction of the Law and soothing balm of the Gospel, not merely platitudes that reinforce our warped senses of self-worth and self-centeredness. We need to be brought into the mysterious, saving worship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not amused to death or entertained for an hour each week.
To my brother pastors, we can do better. Remember your calling and plead for God's grace to be faithful. Let us proclaim Christ, let us celebrate the mysteries, let us lead others into true worship. It is hard work, but God is on our side.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ in the pews, we can also do better. Taste and see that the Lord is good--and let us quit gorging on the world's junk food disguised as the true faith.