Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Everyone one a minister. . .
“We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap — it is a sinful complicity.”
I believe that Francis gets to the heart of one of the great temptations of the Church -- and one that was addressed in the Reformation with the renewal of an understanding of vocation. We have made it seem as though the only vocation that counts is the one that is entered by ordination and we discount the baptismal vocation to the point where it becomes merely a detail of history.
Certainly this is true of the way we in the Lutheran Church have handled the issue of who may be a Pastor. A goodly number of Lutherans have made this a justice issue because they equate the pastoral vocation as the only real vocation. If this is the only real or even the primary vocation, then it stands to reason that the Church cannot prevent women, gays, or anyone else from having access to ordination. Absent other paths of service just as important, we have left the folks in the pew with the idea that in order to be as "good" as a Pastor they must either do what a Pastor does or be what a Pastor is. Because we have not fully taught the baptismal vocation, we have "clericalized" our people -- both because it makes us feel better as Pastors and because we believe and they believe it is what they want or must have.
When it comes to vocation, Lutherans have become the very enemy they complained against in the Reformation. All because we continue to minimize or fail to discuss the vocation of the baptized which is lived out less in the confines of nave and chancel than it is in the world. This is also connected to the silence of some Lutherans about sanctification. Both vocation and sanctification are connected -- not the same but clearly connected.
Why can't women or girls or whomever serve in the chancel is a question that is created by the way we discount the baptismal vocation that God's people live out within the home, the workplace, the community, and the world. This has also had the result of making marriage optional and children secondary. If being husband to your wife and wife to your husband is not a primary vocation, then the estate of marriage is left with utilitarian reasons for its existence. If being parent to your children and a child to your parents is not part of calling from God and very place where we live out a significant part of our baptismal identity, then the choice to have or not to have children is merely utilitarian -- whether economic or desire. If being a neighbor to your neighbor is accidental and not fundamental to our understanding of how we live out our baptismal life as children of God, then community can exist only of those we choose to friend and mediated by technology to fulfill our self-centered purpose. Then the poor, those in need, the sick, the imprisoned, the ill of body, mind, or heart... all of these are governmental responsibility paid for by tax assessment and not the common cause of the baptized in the name of Christ.
"Spiritual" has come to be equated with worship just as "worship" has come to mean entertainment -- both allied by the common cause of self-interest and personal preference. A gazillion years ago when spiritual gifts and inventories were all the rage, I remember asking a women very skilled at teaching if she might consider becoming a Sunday school teacher. "No," she said, "my spiritual gift is discernment." Whether the crassness or abrupt nature of desire to nay say how and where we might serve or the couching of this in the spiritual terminology of gift, we have become adept at denying the places and purposes for which we were set apart in baptism. The only glory we want to bring to God is the glory that spills over on to self. We will stand down front and sing into a mic in a praise band or serve in the chancel in some other visible way that draws attention to ourselves but we will not wash feet for the sake of the poor or those in need. We will seek out self help and personal enrichment opportunities that promise personal fulfillment but we will not remain in a marriage that is not giving us back as much as think we deserve or put children ahead of self-interest.
Francis clearly has his finger on the great chasm between the noble words we say and the way we view service and sacrifice. It is somebody else's job; not mine. Ask anyone in the Church or in the community and they will tell you jobs go begging all the time because the place or responsibility is dirty, messy, not glamorous or noteworthy. In the Church we will take a mission trip vacation to serve folk half a world away while we get to see the sights but at home we do not even bother to get to know our neighbor's name, much less serve him or her nor do we offer to work in the food pantry or teach Sunday school or serve in the nursery or clean up after coffee hour. The blame does not fall on the bad folks in the pews but first to the Pastors and church leaders who have clericalized the nature of vocation and failed to speak of the godly calling that is our baptismal responsibility of worship, witness, intercession, and service.
For Lutherans this might be a good time to review the dusty old part of the Catechism seldom spoken of: the Table of Duties. Here, within the context of personal and eloquent expressions of doctrine and faith Luther has posited the purpose of our baptismal identity and the places where we live it out. This is the noble and honorable calling of those who wear the name of Christ by baptism and faith. Unless and until we raise up these areas of service to the same or higher esteem given to service in the chancel, the Church will continue to be "clergy heavy" in both orientation and vocation. This we cannot afford. We know well what we are given in our baptism. We must know equally well what we are baptized for -- that is, what is the vocation that proceeds from that death and new birth in the baptismal waters...