Read Exodus 20:1-6
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them” (Acts 14:15, NLT).
Growing up, there were many things that I aspired to be. I wanted to be an astronaut, an author, a poet, an explorer, a rock star, a web site developer, and a computer programmer. There were so many things, as a child, that I dreamed I would grow up being. Certainly none of them included most of the labor intensive jobs I did end up holding as a young adult: at Burger King, Arbys, in a factory that made rubber hubs and things for technology, in a factory/warehouse that specialized in professional kitchenware, and as an Iron Worker.
From the youngest age and my earliest memories, I wanted to be a pastor. I would pull out my mom’s 8-track tower (yes, this dates me) and would use that as a pulpit to preach from. I would stand at that “pulpit” and preach that “God tells us to love one another”, in my 3-4 year old voice. I loved my Bible, even if I fully didn’t understand it and I just had a connection with Jesus that was unique, especially for someone my age at the time.
Of course, as a teenager, I fell away from my call and wanted to be all the aforementioned things I dreamed about. That, honestly, is not all that unusual. There are so many career paths for kids to follow that it can be overwhelming to just settle on one and, like most kids at the age of 15-17, I was not looking to serve in a church. In fact, from the age 17 and onward, I left Christianity and practiced another religion for several years.
Eventually, however, Christ brought me back to the call He had placed on my heart all those years ago as a young child. So, at 26 years old, I came back to the church and immediately began working toward my call. By age 27, I was enrolled in community college to finish out my associates degree. By 28, I was enrolled at Montclair State University in order to get a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and, by 29, I was enrolled at Drew Theological Schoool to work toward a Master of Divinity degree.
That year was 2007 and, given that I had a family and children, and was working as a youth pastor at my home church, as well as a substitute teacher, I could not afford to finish in 3 years. I ended up graduating in 2011 with an M. Div. From 2011 onward, I worked toward ordination. I was appointed pastor of small church in 2012 and also served as the Director of Mission and Pastoral Care (aka chaplain) at a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). It took me from 2011 to 2017 to get through the process and be ordained. In 2017, I was appointed to my current appointment, where I serve my congregation full-time.
Over the years, as a pastor, I have noticed that I often get put up on a pedestal as if I am the epitome of faith and faithfulness. Because of my role, people in my congregation and in my surrounding community look up to me as if I am “holy”, “Godly”, and as if I have everything together in my life. My family, similarly, gets viewed in the same light. Because they live in my household, they must all be fluent in the Bible, the doctrines of the church, and they must have a joy to do all things “church” and nothing else.
Of course, these perceptions and expectations are not accurate, to say the least, and they are not healthy for the pastor, the family of the pastor, or for the congregation. As a pastor, I am constantly having to remind people that I am merely human and while, yes, I have been set apart to serve God, I am not superhuman and I do not always have everything together. In fact, if you look at the people who served God in the Bible, this could be said about all of them except for Jesus.
There are, therefore, a couple things that need to be addressed for the good of the order. First, as Chrsitians, we are ALL set apart for faithful service to God. Not all of us are called to serve as pastors, but all of us are called to SERVE. Second, the only One who has it all together is God/Jesus Christ. All other people are sinful and in need of God’s grace. To put anyone but God on the pedastal is to make an idol of him/her. Of course, idols ALWAYS fail to deliver the goods, as it were, and that eventually sets the pedastal person up to fail…and FALL…HARD.
As Christians, let us remember that we are to look to God, and to God alone for our salvation. Only God has everything altogether. Only God is faithful without fault. We should respect the offices of those who are serving God; however, we should not view such people, pastors or otherwise, as “holier than thou”. To do so is to turn our back on the One who can actually save us…the one who called your pastor and all pastors, the one who called you and all Christians, to join in the building of God’s heavenly kingdom. Let us turn our eyes upon Jesus and follow him from where we are to where he’s called us to be.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” – Helen H. Lemmel
Lord, steer me away from idolatry, false hope, and unrealistic expectations. Guide my eyes to look upon you Lord. Amen.