"Don't be so humble, you're not that great," Golda Meir once told one of her government ministers, or a visiting diplomat (sources disagree).
It is another disappointing Palm Sunday. No pastor on a donkey. Yet another year has gone by and I missed seeing it.*
Now, this could be because no self-respecting pastor would have the cajones to get up on a donkey and be Jesus.
Or it could be that I just didn't go to an egoist's church.
If it happened once, and it did, in the congregation I served, about 20 years before I got there, I have to think it has happened again. Somewhere out there in Christendom is a pastor who not only believes that "in order to be like Jesus you have to pee like Jesus," (with a penis, standing up, ergo, no women allowed), but that if you're going to represent Jesus you get to copy his most glorious moment. The adoring crowd, "blessed be the Son of David, the Messiah, the One who comes in the name of God! Hosanna to you!" Yes, I followed a pastor who abrogated to himself that kind of power and glory.
And abused it every chance he got.
There are a lot of pastors who spend time riding around on asses. Or as asses.
BUT there are a lot of pastors who don't. Most don't. In fact, most pastors are humble (but not that humble, they know they're not that great), hard-working, loving, kind, tender-hearted, generous, forgiving and forbearing women and men who work 80 hours a week and never stop thinking about their parishioners' problems and spend extra hours every week thinking and praying and pondering how to be helpful.
Most of us know that given everything we are way out of our league. We know how much is at stake in people's lives, how much death there is stalking them, stalking us all, how much anxiety, avarice, usury folks are suffering. Most of us clergy do not serve the top 1% of U.S. society, the 400 richest people in America who collectively earn more than the bottom 150 million altogether. We serve the unemployed and the sick and the starving. We serve the recipients of Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps and subsidized housing. We serve the middle class, squeezed, insecure who live paycheck to paycheck and wonder if their job will be there next week.
Most of us, pastors, clergy, priests, ministers -- whatever you call us know that life is way beyond us, beyond our controlling, even beyond our knowing. Most of us would identify with Karl Barth, a famous theologian, who described himself simply as one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.
That's most of us. Just paddling our little duck feet under water as fast as we can to keep up. Trying to do, be, accomplish, serve far more than we have the capacity to do. Yet, we try. We work our asses off. And we are humble.
As you know, my speciality within the realm of churchly life is the abuse of pastoral power. Stopping it. Preventing it. Responding to it. Not a vocation I chose. I don't jump up and down for joy that 'it' (or God, I suppose) chose me. But there you are.
I see and tell you about the seedy side of ministry. One we all know too well. It does happen too often.
But not every pastor or minister is an ass. Or rides one. Pretending to be Jesus.
My sense of outrage at the story of one man and an ass, and a penis kept busier than the beer spigot at a baseball game is what it is: Righteous anger about the abuse of power, the abuse of God's people who came for one thing (Jesus) and got a very cheap imitation instead. But. But.
For this week, a Holy Week throughout the Church, I invite you to remember and give thanks for those pastors who are working triple overtime to help see to it that you feel and see and hear and touch and know the power of new life, of Jesus, really Jesus, of life abundant and free, of rising and renewal: Of resurrection. Of Easter. They really want that life for you. They really hope and pray and will give all they have this week to help you see Jesus, see the Life of Life. And be risen with him to new life.
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*Please, please, please tell me you get my wry, sarcastic sense of humor!