On a search for a better world, finding it in the most unlikely places
I want to be a pastor. Even typing those words evokes a visceral recoil from somewhere deep inside my gut. It’s a realization I’ve come to in the past six weeks, as I’ve been looking for the next part of life to appear in front of me. I’m not even sure if I can really explain or quantify it. I mean, I somehow doubt that I would be on anyone’s list of “people who would be good at being a pastor”. I’m sarcastic…I’m obnoxious. I have commitment issues. I question EVERYTHING. I will drop a four-letter word when I’m mad. I HATE establishments, systems, and rules. I’d rather go for I’d rather hang out with a homeless dude than attend a prayer breakfast…but maybe that’s the point.
I grew up in a community of ‘insiders’ who, more or less on purpose, taught a way of life that was about being ‘in’, and if you weren’t in, then you were screwed. I spent most of my young life trying to wrestle with the dichotomy between the God I met one night under the starry autumn sky and the angry, legalistic being that was taught in ‘church'(I was always scared to death of that one). Then I found Jesus, and have spent the last 6 years re-shaping my view of everything…I guess to sum it up, I’ve always identified with the outcasts and downtrodden…always felt more like one of them than any other group of people…
When I read the gospels, I see a God who has come for me, a God who loves the outcasts more than I ever could, who spent His entire earthly existence butting heads with the powers and systems of oppression, who made Robin Hood look like a frickin’ sellout (he took a WHIP to a 1st century version of a ‘religious book store’), and then, in the greatest act of cosmic subversion, used His own death to literally destroy death and all the establishments and systems of the rule-makers and religious fakers!
“He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.” – Colossians 2:15 (The Message)
As I’ve fallen more in love with this Jesus, I’ve realized it is not enough for me, personally, to give cognitive assent to His existence. It is not enough for me to hang out with the Jesus crowd. If I am to follow Him, I have to literally follow Him. Out the back door of the establishment, into the streets and back alleys where the down-and-outers, the have-not’s, and the outcasts reside. Because the “good news” of Jesus and God’s Kingdom mean there is more than the way things are, that Heaven has physically invaded Earth, and that everyone who was, is, or will be an outsider can lay down every burden, every fear, and every failure to receive a new life. I cannot be OK with being a mere recipient of a Christian “goody-bag”. Y’know, the one that has the “ticket-out-of-hell” and the manual to become wealthy and happy…that’s first-order BS. I’d rather be found with the hopeless, hurting and confused. Those for whom the message of Life is buried under mountains pain, bitterness, and bad choices.
That’s why I want to be a pastor…I want to be part of a church that, as Jon Foreman of Switchfoot perfectly states is for “The dropouts, the losers, the sinners, and the fools”. I know this is a journey that will cost me everything. I know that I will spend the rest of my life in direct conflict with religion and pretension. I know that this is the worst ‘career choice’ ever, and I don’t care, because it is impossible to receive Jesus into my heart without Love moving my hands.
And there, I guess, is the point. Part of my call in life is to never let us (the people of Jesus) become complacent. What is your hang-up, what is your excuse? What are you holding onto? Who aren’t you loving? Who are you ignoring? Why are you the oppressor? Whose throat is your foot on? Will you be satisfied with enjoying the “goody bag”, or are you going to leave everything to follow this crazy Messiah? You have a choice. This moment, and every day for the rest of your life…