Tuesday, October 02, 2007
If spiritual pastors are to refrain from saying anything that might ever, by any possibility, be misunderstood by anybody, they will end — as in fact many of them do — by never saying anything worth hearing. — Dorothy Sayers, “The Triumph of Easter”
I don't know who the folks are at the Presbyterian Church (USA) who choose our daily quotes. But I am planning to blog a bunch of them in the coming weeks... they are quite wonderful.
I have to confess that I know Dorothy Sayers primarily from her Lord Peter Wimsey novels which were turned into smart, visually scrumptious television dramas, shown on the PBS series "Mystery." (And more compelling, by far, than the persnickety Wimsey was his "husky-voiced" love interest, Harriet Vane.)
But I see from the Wiki article that Sayers' major accomplishment in her own mind was a translation of the Divine Comedy. And judging by the quote above, she had more than a little experience with church.
Years ago I was in conversation with a Presbyterian minister who acted as a mentor to me. We would have lunch every so often, and as we did, we would talk about theology... my understanding of ordination, of church, of salvation, etc. One time, over lunch in a whole foods restaurant, she looked at me with the kind of bemused look one gives a child and said, "You do realize you are more free as an unordained person than as an ordained one, don't you?" As ordination was the goal I was pursuing with laser-like focus, I was startled by this comment. "No, I don't," I said, a little annoyed.
"You can't say everything you want to say as a minister. You can't push people as hard as you want to, to bring about a change of heart."
"But aren't ministers supposed to preach the gospel?" (I believe I was actually sputtering.) "Aren't they supposed to be prophets?"
She thought a moment and replied, "They are treading the thin line between prophet and pastor. They neglect either one at their peril."
I think Sayers is talking about those who have turned their backs on the prophetic role. And, really, with job security on the line, the forces pulling ministers of the gospel in this direction are strong. But I think of people I know only in the blogosphere... MadPriest! Elizabeth Kaeton! Mother Laura! And I know it can be done. It isn't easy, but it can be done.