What to write about? St. Patrick, a day late? Brackets? An interesting Bible verse from church yesterday? The frustrating delay of spring? I puzzled over the options last night but will write what’s bugging me.
Yesterday I spent a few hours at the office and read a letter from a donor. The letter complained about one of our recent Seminary graduates but, I hasten to add, the complaint was gently put, not angry but grieved. It seems that this young pastor’s interpersonal skills are sadly lacking and that his work ethic leaves something to be desired. He claims his only job is to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. If that were true, it’s like the Depression-era song, “Nice work if you can get it.”
We clergy can be real problems in the spiritual lives of people. The denomination to which I belong, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, has for years been sorely divided by various factions. Of course, each faction assumes the mantle of theological correctness. Several years ago a special study concluded that a major reason for our denomination’s disharmony is the clergy. There was a time when people stuck with their church, even if it was politicized or if the pastor was lazy. That time is gone in America. Lay people aren’t lily white but the passage from Malachi haunts me, “and He will purify the sons of Levi.” (Malachi 3:3)
Commentators are telling us what Pope Francis needs to do. In many cases their prescriptions for the Roman Catholic Church betray their own personal political agendas. Writing in Sunday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat gets it right, I think. “Francis’s reign will be a success if it begins to restore the moral credibility of the church’s hierarchy and clergy, and it will be a failure if it does not.” (March 17; Review, 11)
James 3:1 – “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” So I go to work today to teach future pastors and wonder how in the world can I and my fellow professors instill in each of them an awe, a reverence, what the Bible calls the “fear of the Lord”? And sometime today I hope to call the woman who complained. There are plenty of true things I’ll share with her but I can’t undo the harm of an immature and lazy pastor.