Mediator of the Divine/Nothing Special
Sometimes you have to pretend that you are not just another person. Projection is not necessarily the enemy, but a tool. It is something that someone might give you, enabling you to serve them in a way you couldn’t otherwise. Projection also creates powerful social roles which fulfill crucial functions. Sometimes, you take on the role of minister as mediator of the divine. You stand up, holding a baby, splash the baby with water, and talk about how this splashing and the words everyone has said really matter, how they have made a change in this baby’s life. You hold bread and grape-juice and you pass these things around and you talk about how this particular meal is different from every other meal, that the bread is a body and the grape juice is blood, and that somehow this means that we are sustained by God and ushering in God’s reign in the world. You sit with people who are facing the terror of death, or are wracked by the grief the feel at the loss of someone they love, and you talk to them about hope, about an end to grief and tears, about a God who is present with them and loves them, even when that God does not intervene to save them from suffering. You present these things as true and trustworthy, even when they are elements of faith, and not of certainty.
Then, you come home, take off your shoes, feed the dog or cat, turn on the TV, and it probably strikes you that the minister is nothing special. You are made of the same stuff as everyone else. You screw up about as much as anyone. Maybe more, because sometimes you have the audacity to try to mediate the divine of all things! You’ve got a degree, but in the PCUSA a lot of your parishioners will have their own degrees. And the ones who don’t aren’t going to care about the certificate on your wall. If anything, it’ll make you harder for them to relate to.
You’re going to screw up. You’re going to fail and fall and trip and stumble. You’re going to look stupid and make people angry and hurt people’s feelings. At those times, you’d better thank God that you are nothing special, because if you were really supposed to be special compared to everyone else, what a disaster that would be!
This is a job that we do and it is also a job that we cannot possibly do. The only hope, really, is that it doesn’t ultimately depend on us. In the meantime, however, a lot does depend on us. People depend on us, and in the broader sense the church depends on us. We should work as hard as we can to be as good at ministry as we can be – but we should also know when to let go of our need to accomplish things and look good and be respected. It doesn’t take much work to convince someone in ministry that they need to work hard. Ministry is like a magnet for perfectionistic people-pleasers. The hard thing is the reminder that this is just a job. It is a calling among many callings, and our hope is not in ourselves.