• Rev. Max

of Prophets and Politics

There are two responsibilities of an American pastor: to speak with authority on God's Kingdom (here and yet to come), and to speak to what that means for us trying to live our lives in this country, with its own blend of morality and ethics reflected in law and action.

I am a pastor. A Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister. I have the responsibilities described above, but I also have to weigh them against what the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) teaches about authority. I have to decide how best to present my interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ to a room full of folks who might not agree with me on this or that Christian principle, or the importance of this or that passage of Scripture, or this or that lesson from our shared history... and why? Why wouldn't I take for granted that we are, at least, seeing the question the same way? Seeing the problem? What church family could possibly meet together and not agree on doctrine?

The Disciples of Christ. And Lord, I love them.

I get the confusion! I get it! I was once an outsider to this denomination, too. I looked at a room full of folks not agreeing on matters other traditions find to be essential - the Trinity, or the existence of Heaven or Hell, whether we go to the afterlife or it comes to us, whether Jesus is essential or just one path of many, and that's not even touching whether to use gifs in blog posts or not - I looked around these rooms and I thought "Good Lord, this is a denomination? This is a church? How do they function?"

Really, really well. My time as a congregant, my time as a hospital chaplain, and my time as a minister has taught me that most people, in any denomination, don't buy the party line. They'll say the creeds, they'll affirm the principles, but they'll have questions that they bury deep down... that they ask their friends, or strangers, or any sympathetic ear...

In the DoC, we ask them in church. In Sunday School. And here's the fun part: we don't pretend we have the answers.

I was a Catholic before I came to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I had questions, there, too, with loving people of God that couldn't wait to give me hard-and-fast answers to all my questions. But those hard-and-fast answers just gave me more questions, and after a while...

The whole thing came tumbling down.

It took me time to realize that the God I'd been worshiping... the God I called on when I felt lost, or broken, or ashamed... the God with whom I celebrated when I had my joys... the God who was always, always there for me? He didn't fit neatly into the categories I saw in the Catholic Church.

So I roamed around, looking for a home. I tried out the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians (even went to a Presbyterian seminary!), but nowhere was home... no denomination was comfortable with me saying "I believe this jumble of things, and it's comfortable for me, but it might not be comfortable for you, but you can do your own thing... and I won't judge."

Until I found the Disciples of Christ. I've ironed out that 'jumble of things' into a coherent theology now, but what I love about the DoC is that lets people find their own way; just as it let me find my own way. At the end of the day, if I believe something different than my neighbor about whether Heaven comes to us or we go to Heaven at the end of our lives... does it really affect me or my relationship with my God in Jesus Christ? Does it prevent us from meeting together as neighbors and children of God and sharing bread and wine (or grape juice, if that's your deal) in fellowship? Are we forever distanced because we don't perfectly share beliefs, or gender, or age, or sexual orientation, or political parties?

I don't think so. I know there are a lot of folks that want to declare themselves better than their neighbor due to certain beliefs, gender, age, sexual orientation, or political parties... Good Lord, now more than in a long time, I think... but I'm not one of them. I'll never defend anyone being one of them.

We're going to disagree, on... well... a lot. That's how God made us. Let's not stress about it.

But that begs the questions, doesn't it? Hang on, let me grab the thing from the top of this page, about responsibilities:

There are two responsibilities of an American pastor: to speak with authority on God's Kingdom (here and yet to come), and to speak to what that means for us trying to live our lives in this country, with its own blend of morality and ethics reflected in law and action.

If everyone disagrees on theology or politics or both... or at least, it's okay if everyone disagrees... how do you have authority to speak on God's Kingdom, 'here and yet to come'? Why would people listen to you for 'what it means for us'?

A pastor is supposed to do more than just interpret Scripture, or the intentions of the author, or the intentions of God and preach the 'right way' to look at it from the pulpit... a pastor is supposed to be a shepherd.

(Not this.)

I have authority because I am a trusted guide.

I don't have all the answers, and I don't claim to have them. I say "This is what I've learned from my study of the passage; from the history, the culture, the languages; and this is how I believe it applies to the world today."

I've had middle school students change my mind on the interpretation of a passage or a directive by God because they gave me a new perspective. Because they weren't content with what I told them. And they were right.

So the next time I gave a sermon on the topic, I shared what I'd gained from that interaction, and my authority was the same... because I never pretended to be the know-it-all, but the helpful guide that's been exposed to a bit more information along the way, but is always open to hear more.

This blog is a way for me to share how I'm seeing the world we live in and the way I believe we should represent the God of our faith in our interactions with that world.

I pray you have a blessed week,

Rev. Max

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© 2019 H.M. Hazell. of Prophets and Politics.

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