People seem to ask me rather consistently how I do the work I do as a priest. They are curious, and usually very empathetic, as I answer them. They then usually respond with some version of “great for you but I could never do that!” Well, neither could I. Not without Jesus. The Presbyterian pastor and author Frederick Buechner perfectly describes the priestly vocation in his book Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. There he wrote,
“By and large a good rule for finding out is this: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. … The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (118-19)
Yep. That’s about it! Please note that there is a caller (God) and a recipient (us). To be called is to have avocation, the same Latin root as voice and vocal. Every Christian is in point of fact a minister, and every ministry is so vitally significant in the Body of Christ! I could not begin to be competent or viable in my priestly ministry without the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit imbuing me, moment by moment, with God’s very nature poured out through Jesus upon my life. The Spirit of the living God is to ministers, all of us, as water is to fish! So any authentic ministry lies precisely where that divine intersectionality of passion/joy and need/hurt come crashing together. That’s what I am designed for. That’s why I am here. It took me a long time to accept the fact that God’s call was precisely there. I had so many illusions, fantasies and misconceptions about being a priest. Poppycock! I need to serve you as a Christian priest. I need to be where the pastoral action always is most acute. Lent is such a great time to re-visit the grand plan and purpose of God for my life, and for yours also!
As I flew back from Dallas yesterday, I sat next to a delightful college student coming to Vail with her family to ski over Spring Break. We got to talking, and I held off as long as possible the inevitable query about what I do to live here. I told her, finally, and before she could respond, I quickly asked her, “And you, what do you do? What gift do you have to share with the world?!” (Big clue here: Clergy love to talk like that!) She told me she was still looking, and then honestly told me she didn’t know what gift she had. Divine intersectionality over Oklahoma!! We had a great time talking together, and finally, she looked over conspiratorially and said, “You know, my father says the same thing!” I replied, “Of course he does! All Fathers do! That’s because he loves you!”
- God is a loving Heavenly Father to us all. That’s because He loves us! What gift do you have to share with the world right now, today?!
- Have you ever seriously considered a vocation, not to the priesthood, but to a personal ministry? To what may I ask and to whom is God calling you to serve in this moment of your life?
- Where does your deep gladness and joy rendezvous with the world’s deepest hunger and pain? Where is the divine intersectionality of your personal ministry?