quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pastor and Theology - a different task

Pastors need to be about theology.

However, if theology is primarily understood as of benefit to the state then pastors will have no time for the pure theological task, that is, allowing the still small voice of divine revelation to speak. Rather pastors will be pressured to fit into predetermined political and social categories with the assumption of total agreement and support for whatever their tradition determines is the majority position. That is, cultural and political expectations will trump anything that pre-supposes any still small voice, which is then marginalized if not silenced. When the pastor is led to fit political expectations there is no time left for the pastor's primary work.

That the pastor's theological task is primarily that which arises from divine revelation in the Church and allows for freedom to grow within the context of the Church should not be, but seems to have become, the exception. If there is any "political" or "public" role for the pastor that is found in the Church's liturgy where the Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered among the people. This is where the "material" of the Church's life is found and the pastor is indispensable in this role as is seen in the Lord's sending of His Apostles.

The political world is rightly ordered about the material world but cannot fully appreciate the distinct nature of the Church and the role of the pastor. This world has different needs and expectations and a different governance. In this regard the Church and her liturgy are clearly distinct. This is seen negatively, in the impatience that has infiltrated the Church and her liturgy in some ways so as to make it harder to discern between that which is Church and that which is not or that which is worship and that which is not. Even within the Church one does not always hear the still small voice.

Positively, the Church and her liturgy remind us that we are on holy ground, that we are dealing with matters more pertinent to the soul and that we can put the world aside, even if for a little while. The "matter" or "material" here is a-political in terms of the expectations of the world outside. It is the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar through which people are drawn and united in the death and resurrection of Christ Himself. There is no big government, little government, or no government here, only Christ on the altar bringing His life to the people.

The pastor needs to be about theology so that he can hear that still small voice and faithfully lead others to hear it too, even if that means he is not on the cutting edge among the many voices in the political arena.

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