Be water my friend: Pastor as a formless form.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object…if nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves…be formless…It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.”

Sifu Bruce Lee

I have always been fascinated with water.  Water is always water.  Wither present as ice, mist, clouds, a raging river, or meandering creek, it is always water.  Water adapts to its environment, constraints, and the needs placed upon it.  Water shapes its containers as it is guided by nature to it destiny of returning to where it arrived.  Water is efficient and powerful, even in miniscule amounts.  Water cradles life and gathers it in to itself, preserving life in worship of the Creator.  I see a parallel between water and being a pastor.

Being a pastor to a worshipping community has the same purpose of preserving life in worship of the Creator.  Being a pastor comes with the responsibility that your actions be based on sound theological reflection as well as knowledge and skills informed by the human sciences, coupled with ones experience.  It is the moral obligation of the pastor to be theologically sound.  Sound meaning one is studious in maintaining the theological education earned and do so in humility and within a community of saints.

We as pastors have a professional responsibility to be able to direct, answer, and counsel those seeking care in their moments of need.  This requires the pastoral caregiver to reflect, digest, and ponder the deep theological questions encountered by those they are called to serve.  This must be accompanied with the ability to relevantly administer the “so what” of these very theological questions.

Without a sound theological base or the ability to efficiently, relevantly, or effectively inform the care seeker in moments of need, the caregiver becomes irresponsible.  Look to the parable of the waiting servants as a model[1].  We will never know when we shall be called upon to serve.  We must be ready at all times to walk alongside those that call upon us as pastoral caregivers.

This preparedness is maintained via prayer.  “If we believe that it is finally God who provides what is needed, then prayer is not optional.”[2] Prayer is where being a pastor begins and where it ends.  We cannot be responsible for the healing, growth, or reconciliation that transpires within the pastoral relationship.  We must prepare and cultivate in our own lives the ability and awareness of God and encounter the ability of healing and growth opportunities available in a relationship with God.

In her book “Cultivating Wholeness”, Margaret Kornfeld describes this as being a gardener.  A gardener must tend to the ground as well as cultivate the plants within the ground.  It is not their job to grow the plants themselves.  A gardener facilitates that which God already ordains–growth.[3] It is in the real life activity of this relationship of caregiver, care receiver, and God that the horizontal and vertical bonds described by Hunsinger in her Koinonia relationship are exhibited.

We as pastors are trained professionally via seminary, graduate programs, and specialized training that lead to certification, ordination, and degree awarding that legitimizes the role we seek to answer in the world.  We are trained to be gardeners in the garden of creation as we ourselves are tended to and cultivated.  The participation of pastor and worshiping community is continuously defined and redefined as the conversation progresses.

To effectively impart the theology proclaimed as we engage the world as pastors of the Word and Sacrament, we must always remain students.  We are the “food processors” of a people unable to commit their lives to years of continued studies and academic reasoning. We are called to equip ourselves with a sound [sound should not read owner of truth, rather it is a seeker of truth] theological understanding.

We as pastors stand at the door.  It is more like lingering at the door these days hoping that the priesthood of ALL believers peeks in and decides to stay and listen.  We are not the only ones capable of such an act.  It is our purpose as part of Koinonia to be fully present, listen to those that call us to hear and pray when needs are visible and invisible.  We as pastors must hold witness to the healing Spirit of Jesus Christ.

In my personal quest towards answering the call on my life, I endeavor to continuously seek learning in my growing edges and ask the “hard questions” of life.  I seek to not be paralyzed by the fear which lingers in the shadows of my brokenness.  I have been blessed with gifts in pastoral service that allow me to function in my specific call.  I desire to root myself in continued theological study.

It is my hope that with a posture of humble service I may continue to rely upon God as the source of my well spring.  I look to Paul Tillich as a source of inspiration when I look to the world in theological terms.  I embrace Jesus as the “New Being” as it is foundational in my witness of the abilities and bridge between what I have and do not have.  Jesus is the meeting place to where I have returned to God.  In Jesus I am no longer estranged and am able to be a witness of the transforming grace and life giving mercy that abounds in the message of Jesus.

I am also inspired by Henri Nouwen in my theological understanding of pastor.  I can only be an instrument of healing if I am open to healing myself.  Therefore, as I grow and heal in my acknowledgement and acceptance of my human condition of finitude and depravity I open myself to be an instrument of healing to others as I listen, share, relate, and walk with those I am serving as pastor.

We are all imago dei.  I must always begin here with the understanding that my personal devotion to God and my relationship with Gods good creation I must remain aware that being pastor begins and ends with the power of Jesus the Christ.  I seek to be present where Christ seeks to be present.  My hearts is to break at that which heavies the heart of Jesus the Christ.  At best within the praxis of pastor I am to integrate what I have been trained to do along with Christ has called me to be.  Doing so in a relevant manner I seek to walk between the world of culture and the Kingdom of counter-culture, rebelling against the status-quo to offer action to the words, “Thy Kingdom Come.  Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

To be pastor in the technologically, individualized me-day we must be fluid and formless, void of form yet full of substance.  This does not mean absent of structure.  I see it as an extreme flexibility fueled by the desire to be healed.  Using your healing as a witness to others as to what transformation looks like in the grace filled, mercy laden Christ.  I hope to be a humble servant, willing to walk, go, run, jump, or sacrifice when ever I am called to do so.  I see being formless as water similar to being transparent and vulnerable.  When vulnerability is present strength can be garnered from community and God.  We cannot be a relevant pastor to any worshipping community if we are not vulnerable, honest, and hungry for community.

We are in a time where the denomination is looks for answers to questions we might have been asking ourselves for sometime.  We just never got around to answering them or we were too afraid to entertain then.  America has shifted away from the radiant white doors of our worshipping communities and into the seedier places of worship.

Are we too then going to go to the dark recesses of the cultural underbelly for one or two?  Jesus would.  I ray that we redefine what it means to be a pastor.  We must revisit the way “church” is done and how we serve as “pastors” to this hurting, hungry denomination.  We owe it to our children to fertilize the crops before we die.  God give us water to drink and food to eat as we endeavor to be the people you called us to be.

[1] Luke 12:35-38 and Mark 13:33-37

[2] Page 1, Pray without Ceasing: Revitalizing Pastoral Care  Hunsinger, D.

[3] Paraphrased from page 10-11

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