I haven’t always been a minister. That may surprise you, because there are some people who think of the clergy as a different species altogether — you know, that we were born with a collar, and our first words were a sermon.
,Actually, in my youth I wanted to be a veterinarian. I started college as a chemistry major, and graduated with a degree in English literature. My chemistry professor always took credit for my call to ministry.
,My call to ministry did not come with bolts of lightning. It came at an eight o’clock lab class on a Saturday morning. There I was, staring into the depths of a Florentine flask full of chemicals. The words that came into my head were something like, “I don’t think so.”
,It was then that the idea of being a minister, previously hiding somewhere in my subconscious, came to the fore. The rest is history, including seminary and service at six churches over almost 37 years.
,The fact is that I have never regretted it a bit.
,I thought that this month’s column would be about why — why I love what I do. Maybe it will lead you to find out more about your favorite clergyperson … to get to know what makes him or her tick.
,First, I love people. If you don’t, don’t consider this occupation. At my ordination service, my uncle, a retired minister, said to me, “One thing I can tell you. You’ll always be surrounded by the most interesting people.” He was prophetic. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t marvel at the array of personalities with whom I get to share my life and work. They all have fascinating stories, and they always teach me something.
,Second, I love God. I love thinking about God, and I love the mysterious study of theology. As I get older, I find that I have fewer certainties, but I am surer of a few things. I’m surer that God’s essential nature is love. I’m surer that God is more forgiving than we can ever be. I’m surer that God is not a judgmental grandfather but a loving parent who weeps when we weep. I’m surer that none of us is in a position to judge anyone else.
,Third, I love to preach. Preaching is more art than science, more of a dialogue than a monologue. The congregation I preach to is a partner in my sermons. They never fail to tell me if something I say is helpful, and they are amazingly caring when they find themselves in disagreement. In preaching, I try to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable — and sometimes I even get it right.
,Finally, I get to walk with people through every season of life. My days are amazingly varied; in one day I can baptize a baby, marry a couple, pray at the bedside of the dying, and go to five committee meetings. The funny thing is, I love it.
,Do you know what makes your clergyperson tick? Do you know why they chose to do what they do? If not, ask them. You may hear some really good stories.
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