Just a heads up, this All Saints Day commentary may be a bit more pastoral than homiletical. that’s probably okay, though, because many in the Wesleyan tradition, unfortunately, don’t preach All Saints Day… So this commentary will be addressed to you, pastor.
A good pastor friend of mine once texted that were he to lead a TED Talk it would be titled, “The Pastor As Public Property.” I probably don’t need to expand this any further, I’m sure you have a litany of examples running through your head about being public property.
Pastor, have you ever had an anniversary dinner interrupted? Have you ever had to cut a vacation short? Have you left a kids sporting event or recital to tend to your parishioners? Have you received middle of the night text messages from people with emergencies? Have you ever had families in your church hold grudges against you without sharing their concerns?
Pastor, have you ever been so fatigued with your work that you want to crawl into a ball and binge Netflix for a month? (No? Me neither…) Have you ever had every decision you make for the betterment of the church diminished and denigrated? Have you ever had people whom you shepherd talk poorly behind your back, lie about your, or criticize your character?
Chances are, if you’re in ministry, you’ve felt these things and more. It’s a strange phenomenon, isn’t it? There is an expectation that pastors will drop everything in order to be available for everyone. Now, to be fair, there are times things need to be dropped! Last year there was an older gentleman lying on his deathbed, so my wife and I left vacation early to sit by his side as he passed. The interruptions and expectations placed on a pastor are not all inappropriate; not by a long shot.
But I don’t think the legitimacy of a particular concern necessarily changes the weight of it! We pastors carry a heavy burden for a lot of really really good reasons.
Pastor, Luke has a word for you this All Saints Day. The Lukan Beatitudes are a bit more brief and much more curt. Luke doesn’t incorporate Matthew’s spiritualized qualifications. For Luke the blessed are poor. That’s it. Poor. For Luke the blessed are hungry, and they weep. For Luke the blessed are hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed on account of Jesus.
Pastor, the word for you today is to be blessed. There was a time that we would speak God’s blessing onto others. It wasn’t necessarily a change of their circumstance or a easing of the burden. To speak God’s blessing on someone (makarios) was to say, “take heart!” A wooden translation would be closer to “How fortunate.”
So, friend, how fortunate that we suffer with Christ in ministry. How fortunate that through these struggles and burdens, God’s power is revealed. Take heart; the Kingdom is near.
On All Saints Day we remember those who gave their life for the sake of Christ and Christ’s Kingdom. We look to the saints for inspiration and as exemplars. This week take a moment to reflect on the pastoral saints of your life. Who were those who poured into your life? What made them so saintly?
I’m guessing it wasn’t there wealth or organizational acumen or even intellect. What makes these saints so holy was their willingness to suffer with Christ for the sake of the Kingdom.
As you gather around the table for All Saints Day be reminded that you are communing with Christ and with these saints. We join these saints around the throne room. We unite our voices with theirs singing, “Holy, holy, holy the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”