Last night while walking home from church I tweeted several times. I have set up the cell phone so I can tweet. This makes me a twit, I am sure, but it's fun. I tossed several little jibes into the twitterverse and one seemed to stick: Following Christ demands such a great change that it's called dying.
One of the things that I have noticed about pastoral ministry is that it is an incubator for conversion, conversion of the pastor. Let me state for the record that though I recognize that conversion is supposed to be good for us, I think it sucks. As a process it is unfriendly even if the outcome is salvific. Why? Well, conversion is change and it is much like dying. There's a reason why Christians define baptism as a kind of death and St. Paul will talk about dying to the world so that he might live in Christ.
Such poetry! Sure. Great. It's still a death. It's unattractive. Saul is blinded by it. It knocks him off his ass onto his ass. The disciples hide from it after the crucifixion. Jesus sweats blood as he prepares for it. Eustace, the boy who was a dragon in C.S. Lewis' imagination, suffers greatly as he is restored, converted by the breath of God (Aslan). There's no song and dance number. There's no "if you order now" promise. It is seldom playful in spite of what Leonard Sweet might suggest. It's challenging enough to beg the questions: Do I really have to? Is it worth it? Is everyone expected to?
I'm led to wonder if conversion is for everyone. Perhaps it's not.
I am in the throws of continual conversion. Today it sucks. I just thought I would share that. There's really not much else to say, but I am hoping that sharing it here will take a little of the sting away. We'll see.
To make it somewhat more relevant to the world and not simply an example of my whining, here is a little Richard Rohr action for you. He asks if institutions are called to conversion as well.
What conversion am I being invited into right now?
What is the future of organized religion? Whatever it is, I hope that we will have the courage to stop rewarding and confirming peoples egos and calling it morality, ministry or church. I hope that we will have lower expectations of leadership and the institution and therefore less need to rebel against it or unnecessarily depend upon it. True leadership is quite rare in my experience and cannot be "ordained" or created by title, office, or costume. Many people are upset with the Church because they expected too much from it. Accept it for what it is and for what it isn't.
More than anything else I hope that the future church can be a people who have entered into Mercy and allow others to enter too. I once saw God's mercy as patient, benevolent tolerance, a form of grudging forgiveness. Now it is apparent to me that Mercy is a divine understanding, a loving allowing, a willing breaking of the rules, by the One who made the rules, a loving wink and smile, a firm and joyful taking of our hand, while we waste time clutching at our sins and gazing at God in desire and disbelief.
Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, pp 185 - 186, day 198
(Source "A Church Unashamed to Be Leaven and Salt")
Are our institutions called to die, to convert? It's a challenging question.