One of the questions that has come up a lot in the whole ordination process lately has been "Why do you want to be a pastor?" This is a perfectly reasonable question you would think! I get asked all the time really. But I think it's been in recent days that my answer has started to take on a little more shape.
Yesterday I was with a friend and we were talking about violence against women. I am naive enough to think that I live in enlightened places among enlightened people, that surely in the places I work or go to school or worship or play shows or wherever I am there is no violence against women. We're beyond that are we not? But no, statistics (and first hand experience) suggest otherwise. We still have a long way to go.
Today I read an article by one Shane Claiborne about the death penalty, particularly in the case of the Boston bombing. It's hard to imagine that we still believe that violence is the answer to violence, that if we have the bigger stick/gun/army we will eventually rule the world. It's hard to imagine that we haven't quite let Jesus' words to turn the other cheek when we're struck sink in. But here we are. We as a nation are going to kill a man in response to his killing others. We're going to use darkness to combat the night.
Even the events recently in Ferguson and Baltimore have held my attention, bringing me to ask myself how there can still be such a racial divide in our nation. How is it that for so many people in our nation the color of our skin shouts louder than our shared humanity? How is it that for so many people the color of a person's skin is a diving wall, a stereotype to uphold, a prejudice to carry? I want to believe none of this is true.
But it is. Our world is a dark place. Women are beaten and raped, people are put to death in response to killing, race still divides us, and we carry a whole host of ugliness that doesn't make the evening news. The world is still full of sin, both the personal sins that we rant and rave about sometimes and the institutional sins that paralyze us as a nation. The world is a dark place.
This is why I want to be a pastor.
A pastor's job is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Every day, we open an ancient and yet living book and remind a weary world that the way of Jesus has nothing to do with violence against women, and will have no part in a man trying to assert dominance in any way. We get to remind our nation that death should not be our first choice, and probably doesn't even work as a last resort. We get to remind everyone who will listen that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile, that race stopped being a reason to divide ourselves a long time ago. We get to remind people that Jesus died not just to save individual souls (though he did that too), but to redeem this fragile world and establish the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We get to hold the light up to the darkness and remind our world and ourselves that "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome." That's a pretty rad job description!
But don't worry, it's a job description reserved not just for those of us who wear robes (can you imagine doing that in this heat? Man...) It turns out that we affirm a priesthood of all believers. It turns out that each of us hold the light. We have been blessed by the grace of Christ, and scripture is clear again and again that a blessing is never just for our own benefit. We are to bless the rest of the world, including and especially the people we don't want to bless.
Friends. Shine the light this week. This day. This very moment. The world needs it more than they know.