Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
A friend recently told me about interactions he has had with his pastor. The pastor keeps suggesting to my friend that he should go to seminary and become a pastor. The sales pitch runs something like this. “It’s a great job, it’s really tough, makes you feel like you’re going to die, exceptionally stressful.” And statistical studies show that ministers are among the most stressed people in the world. They are often on call 24/7. They have advanced training, normally two or three college degrees, plus intensive vetting, but they typically work for less than many people with one college degree. They are regularly asked to move their families across the country to pour out their lives for a group of people who all live near their own loved ones. A pastor is to be good at teaching, public speaking, giving counsel, and frequently needs to know how to run an office and fix anything that might break down around a church building or parsonage. When the pastor doesn’t understand something within the experience of part of his congregation or community he gets to witness people giving knowing looks, smirks, and shaking their heads. Yep, it’s a great job.
In Mark 10 we find that James and John want to have positions of importance in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus’ response is that they really don’t know what they are asking for. But, then again, as his apostles they are going to be thrust into positions of importance. How does this work? They will get to live a life of hardship. Jesus did the same. He left his heavenly home to take on humanity. He spent about thirty years subject to the very same physical trials we deal with. He had sore feet. He got a sunburn. He worked alongside his step-father Joseph in the carpentry business and almost certainly dropped boards on his feet, sliced his hand open on a sharp object, and whacked his fingers with a hammer more than once. He was mocked by people. He was thirsty. He was so tired that he could fall asleep in a boat during a storm. He was surrounded by people jostling him. And finally he was arrested illegally, kept up all night facing false charges in an unlawful trial, was whipped, beaten, ridiculed, and crucified.
Jesus showed himself to be the servant of all. He came not to be served, but to serve. James and John got to have positions of honor in the kingdom of God. They, like Jesus, got to be servants in this world. They endured hardships until their deaths.
This doesn’t sound like a great advertisement for people to train for pastoral ministry? What did Jesus accomplish in his earthly work? He ransomed the world from sin and death. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He raised the dead. He brought hope and life to those who were bound in sin, despair and death. Through the Word of God that’s exactly what God’s pastors get to do. They bring God’s words of life to others. Yes, it’s a hard job. Yes, it’s full of challenges. Everyone wants to be a critic. A recent survey of church members asked what the most important tasks for a pastor to do were and how much time the pastor should spend doing them. The survey said 114 hours a week. What’s the problem? Each week has only 168 hours, and you need to sleep and spend time with your family. That’s over 16 hours each of the seven days in a week. It’s nearly three times’ a normal full time job. There isn’t enough time. The good news? Those respondents really wanted their pastors. They wanted them to be there with the congregation. They wanted them studying the Scripture. They wanted them praying. They wanted them to take care of them as a shepherd cares for his flock. There may be critics around, but deep down, they really want a pastor.
May we all have the desire of James and John to walk the path that Jesus walked.
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