While I'm away, I'm throwing up excerpts from a sermon I preached a year ago at a friend's installation. I still think this is the single best word I could give or receive as a new minister:
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:16-19)
I think this prayer is of particular value – both to the church, and to those who have been called to pastor the church. Paul begins by talking about being strengthened in your inner being. I think this is important. All of the celebrations and rituals and service that we can do – all of the public speaking and public praying, the committee meetings and the professional duties that so often consume the time of a pastor – none of these are the determinate factors in our identity. As necessary as they are, they are peripheral to a much more central matter – a much deeper aspect.
I love the story that Eugene Peterson retells in his book Working the Angles, about a couple who go into labor on their way to the hospital. Pulled over at the side of the road they shout to anyone that can hear for a doctor – and out of the blue a man steps up, directs their labor and helps the mother give birth. They tried unsuccessfully for months to try and locate this doctor at any of the local hospitals - to thank him for helping deliver their baby. Months later, by chance, they bump into him again, and explain how they’d tried to thank him but could not find him at any of the local hospitals. His answer – that’s because I’m not a doctor, I’m a janitor, but at that moment, you needed a doctor and I stepped up. Peterson goes on to explain that he believes its possible, given the right tools and techniques to fake being a minister – much more easily than being a doctor. And he goes on to explain the three inner life areas that he believes need to be cultivated in order to keep from faking it…