Friday, December 5, 2008

Making a Way

Isaiah 40:1-11
It's supposed to be easy for me. I'm a pastor, after all. It's what we do, right - talk to people about God; help people to discover that God is real and present for them. And sometimes it is easier.
I remember a Christmas party many years ago, that we attended for Ana's work in San Francisco. One of Ana's co-workers came up to me and said, "You're in the ministry right?" "Yes," I replied. "Well, I have a lot of questions about Jeremiah. I've never read the bible before, but I started reading Jeremiah, and I don't get it. Explain it to me." And so, right there in the middle of Christmas cheer, we had an hour long discussion about Jeremiah - not one of the simplest books to begin with, but that's where she was. If it were a scene from a movie, this story would end with a group of people gathering around while I waxed eloquently with deep wisdom from the scriptures and charming humor. No movie ending here. She asked lots of questions, some of which stumped me, and anyone that happened to listen in for a few minutes would wander quietly off. But this woman was truly hungry for God.
It doesn't often happen like that, especially at events where people don't know what I do. Normally it goes something like this...
(New acquaintance): "What do you do for a living?"
(Me): "I'm the pastor of a church."
(NA): "Oh."
Sudden awkward silence as the new acquaintance works through confusion about what "pastor" means, fear of impending spiritual attack, and sudden self-consciousness of the drink they are holding.
Such interactions used to bother me. I felt like a spiritual leper. But now I see them as an enjoyable challenge. What can I do to break through the pastor's stereotype and strike up a conversation? What I've found is that most people will bring the talk back to something about God if they find that I'm not going to pounce on them. They really do want to know about godly things, they just don't want to be assaulted.
Perhaps you experience the same sort of thing when people find out you are a Christian, or that you go to church. This week's passage in Isaiah 40 was the one that Luke interpreted as talking about John the Baptist's work to prepare people for Jesus' arrival. John the B was sent to "prepare the way" for the Messiah. This Sunday we'll look at how these old words might apply to our relationships with others - how we can level things out for people to know God. We'll talk about what Isaiah says, what John the B did, and how that might look in our lives today.
- Curtis