Being a Pastor and Chaplain

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I have recently added workplace chaplaincy to my work.  This involves work with being available to employees of a waste disposal firm and a commercial construction firm.  In both cases I have to navigate the levels of the company from owner/CEO to new bottom level employees.

On the one hand, it is a change of pace for me.  People I had been dealing with in the community and church have a different vocabulary than drivers and carpenters.  I have heard a lot more of a certain word – you know the one – that I have heard in a long time.  This word – you know the one – is mostly relieved of its original meaning because it is used as a comma, an explanation point, a verb, an adjective and adverb and a pronoun.  Yet, despite that language, these are men (mostly) who have families and friends like everyone else.  So I choose to more or less ignore the language while trying not to leave any slow hanging curve balls over the plate of street talk.

On the other hand, it is amazing how I get to draw near to people.  One person needed to talk about his family where there had been a suicide and he was stepping into a support role.  Another person shared his spiritual journey and the name of his favorite author.  Several have shared about their home country.  And so I get to travel into very personal places. Some of these openings are short – a glimpse into a life that is soon closed over. Others remain open.

In one case I left a phone message with an employee who was terminated, only to hear a friendly voice from his spouse saying that this was the {_______} family and please leave a message.  A week ago they were a busy family with school and kids. Now there is unemployment.   What stress is that family under today?

I find some direction in this by thinking of Jesus walking into the lives of  people – some with long relationships as with Peter, James and John. Others are one time conversations, as with various people who came for a healing touch.  He sometimes listened and observed, he sometimes taught, he sometimes asked questions and at other times told a story.  He caved for bread as well as souls.

John Stott on Christian Mission

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This year the Theologian of the Year sermon is about John Stott, in particular his work in helping define Mission in our time.  Here are quotes from his book:

Christian Mission in the Modern World, IVP 1975

“All of us should be able to agree that mission arises primarily out of the nature not of the church but of God himself. The living God of the bible is the sending God. “   p. 21

“Today, I would express myself differently. It is not just that the commission includes a duty to teach converts everything Jesus had previously commanded (MT 28:20), and that social responsibility is among the things which Jesus commanded. I now see more clearly that not only the consequences of the commission but the actual commission itself must be understood to include social as well as evangelistic responsibility, unless we are guilty of distorting the words of Jesus.”  P. 23

“The crucial form in which he Great commission has been handed down to us (though it is the most neglected because it is the most costly) is the Johannine.  Jesus had anticipated it in his prayer in the upper room when he said to the Father: ‘As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world’ (Jn 17:18). Now, probably in the same upper room but after his death and resurrection, he turned his prayer-statement into a commission and said: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you’ (Jn 10:21).  In both these sentences Jesus did more than draw a vague parallel between his mission and ours.  Deliberately and precisely he made his mission the model of ours, saying ‘as the Father sent me, so I send you’.  Therefore our understanding of the church’s mission must be deduced from our understanding of the Son’s.  Why and how did the Father send the Son?” p. 23

“Now he sends us, he says, as the Father had sent him. Therefore our mission, like his, is to be one of service.” P. 24

“It comes more natural to us to shout the gospel at people from a distance than to involve ourselves deeply in their lives, to think ourselves into their culture and their problems, and to feel with them in their pains.  Yet this implication of our Lord’s example is inescapable…” p. 25

“This brings me to the third way of stating the relation between evangelism and social action, which I believe to be the truly Christian one, namely that social action is a partner of evangelism.  As partners the two belong to each other and yet are independent of each other. Each stands on its own feet in its own right alongside the other.  Neither is a means to the other, or even a manifestation of the other. For each is an end in itself. Both are expressions of unfeigned love.”  P. 27

“If we truly love our neighbour we shall without doubt share with him the good news of Jesus. How can we possibly claim to love him if we know the gospel but keep it from him? Equally, however, if we truly love our neighbor we shall not stop with evangelism. Our neighbor is neither a bodyless soul that we should love only his soul, nor a soulless body that we should care for its welfare alone, nor even a body-soul isolated from society  God created man, who is my neighbor, a body-soul-in-community. Therefore if we love our neighbor as God mad him, we must inevitably be concerned for his total welfare, the good of his soul, his body and his community.”  p. 30

“Yet the reason for our acceptance of social responsibility is not primarily in order to give the gospel either a visibility or a credibility it would otherwise lack, but rather simple uncomplicated compassion. Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need.”  P. 30

Is it Real or is it…?

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If you are old, like me, you remember the ad for cassette tapes which asked, “Is it real or is it Memorex?”

Sometimes we have to ask if something in the Bible is real or symbolic.

This week I am thinking about Babylon and Jerusalem.  These are real places.  The Biblical story of Babylon begins with Babel in Genesis 11.  The real city/state/empire of Babylon was a looming threat for much of Judea’s history.

And yet Babylon takes on a symbolic role.  St. Augustine spoke fo the City of God and the City of Man.  The City of man is where people deny God and love themselves.  The city of God is where people deny themselves and love God.  Babylon becomes a symbol of this “city of man” in scripture.  The Fall of Babylon in Revelation 17-18 is not just about the location in present day Iraq, but about a world system of government and living that is hostile with God.  Babel/Babylon is symbolic of this stemming back to the goals formed on the Plains of Shinar (Genesis 11:3):

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…”

Jerusalem was a Jebusite city taken over by King David and selected because of it was a place where wrath was stopped by Sacrifice.  It is also identified with the location where Abraham was to offer Isaac in Genesis 22.  There we find a pregnant promise, “…on the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

From the idea that Jerusalem was the home of the King and the location of the Temple, we have a combined hope of glory and grace.  Jeremiah’s the historic city has never lived up to that promise. Consider the description of Lamentations 1:1-2

How lonely sits the city
    that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
    she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
    has become a slave.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
    with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
    she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherousl

Isaiah 2 and Revelation 21 share a vision of Jerusalem as a place for the Nations to live in the knowledge and blessing of God.  The citizens of that City of God are those who are born there by faith – as we find in Psalm 87 (NIV)

He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are said of you,
    city of God:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon
    among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—
    and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her,
    and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
    “This one was born in Zion.

As they make music they will sing,
    “All my fountains are in you.”

So when you read Babylon or Jerusalem, ask if it is Real or Symbolic.