Hey all! Sorry about the delay today. Our guest blogger sent me the email after I was already in a meeting…but here it is! Our guest blogger today is a dear friend and colleague. Jim Fellers and I worked together for four years in Corvallis. He is one of my favorite people in the world. He and I can laugh together and cry together. He has been in the ministry a few years longer than I have and I value his wisdom and perspective. Jim now serves Gresham UMC. Enjoy!
Matthew 23:1‑12 (CEB) Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and his disciples, AThe legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat. Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don‘t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra‑wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. They love to sit in places of honor at banquets. They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as Rabbi. ABut you shouldn‘t be called Rabbi , because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Don‘t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. Don‘t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher. But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up.
“Good morning, Pastor,“ said Steve, our contractor‘s site supervisor, as I arrived at the church office several weeks ago. He continued to address me as Pastor for days until I finally said that I preferred to be called by my first name, the one given to me by my parents. Steve said that Pastor was just used out of respect, but also said it had become his habit perhaps as a result of building a Lutheran church for over a year. Deep inside I admired and respected his construction skills so much that I should probably have been addressing him as Builder Steve!
While I appreciate respect, the titles given to clergy always bother me as reinforcing a hierarchical view of spiritual leadership. Some of our colleagues in other faith traditions seem to be comfortable with fancy titles like Your Eminence or The Very Reverend.
When Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in the days preceding his arrest, he was pretty clear about hierarchical titles for spiritual leaders. Over the centuries, however, tradition seems to have trumped scripture.
Whether we are lay or clergy, we just can‘t get away from establishing a pecking order. Staff listings in church bulletins usually confirm this! Bishops and pastors lose their first names. A parking space close to the entrance is designated for the pastor. In the secular world, Senators are still addressed as Senator after they have left Congress. Perhaps it is a matter of respect, but I wonder if we aren‘t simply feeding ego needs.
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield created his persona based on the mantra, I don’t get no respect! Using comedy, he highlighted our need to be valued and loved by poking fun at himself.
Certainly, we can‘t effectively love our neighbor unless we have love for ourselves, a healthy self-image. Celebrations of achievement in which we honor people are important. But I wonder why we have drifted so far away from Jesus teaching about greatness during his difficult week in Jerusalem.
No wonder the Pharisees wanted to get rid of Jesus, he dared to criticize their privileged status. Here are some of the questions that arise out the scripture for me. How are we like the Pharisees? What is it that pulls us away from servant leadership and toward the desire to be greeted in the markets with honor? When do we cross the line from respect to arrogance? What does Jesus= teaching suggest for our behavior within the community of faith? What do we risk by going against tradition? When and how is it appropriate to recognize, celebrate, and honor different gifts of ministry within the priesthood of all believers?
Holy Week invites us to reflect on the issues Jesus raised within his own faith community. I often find that the questions are just as difficult in our own day. What do you think?