Monday, September 27, 2010

Being Aware Of One's Place

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons...If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  - 1 Timothy 4:1,6

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  - Ephesians 4:11-15

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  - James 1:19

Post-synod leadership event, I've been thinking more about the times and places when we're called to speak the truth, and how that relates to our "place at the table," as it were.  Brian wrote an interesting post here about the need for interns to, basically, shut up a little more and listen.  I was chastised for this a bit myself the other day by a dear friend and mentor, and I still haven't come to any solid conclusions. 

As someone who is yet "young" in my ministry (although feeling like a bit of an old lady in life...), but who is very passionate about certain things, I have a tendency to get all worked up and want to speak my mind.  In my setting as the "pastor" of these two congregations, this actually comes out less with regard to congregational idiosyncrasies (Fine, you want to sing out of that hymnal and only that one and let us NOT touch the other one except on Easter when we HAVE to?  Whatever.  I might vent about it from time to time with friends or colleagues, but I really see myself in somewhat of an interim role here, and there's not much of this type of stuff that I'm willing to die over) and more over (what I perceive as, anyway,) Biblical or theological truth.

Clearly, there are times when for the sake of good order, being respectful of the knowledge and wisdom of others, or just not having the energy to fight, opening one's mouth could be either unhelpful,disrespectful, or just downright not worth it.

But what about when the time comes to speak the truth?  When what is at stake is not some weird preference about whether First Communion should be in 4th grade or 5th grade*, or what seminary taught you about the proper steps of exegesis, or how to cite the AC in a dispute over whether to raise the chalice during the Words of Institution, but instead something truly central to the faith, like justification or the Incarnation or the Trinity or something?  Are we called to proclaim every facet of Scriptural and theological truth at every moment, or are there times when it's best to shut up for the good of the order/because you want the meeting to end/because it wouldn't make the situation any better/because you are only an intern and the bishop is sitting right in front of you? 

Is it different if you are in a situation like mine where I am basically on my own, and although I'm supervised, it's not a direct, senior-pastor-in-the-office-next-door kind of supervision?  How does one decide what is one's "hill to die on," so to speak, and when it's appropriate to claim room for self-identity and theologically negotiable preferences, or when it's better just to be quiet, and go along with it, either because it's not worth the battle or because you're "just the intern"? 

Is it different if you're at a Synod Leadership Conference vs. a council meeting vs. bumping into a member at the grocery story vs. one-on-one with your supervisor?


*Altar guild lady: "Fourth grade is more than young enough if you ask me, people ought to be able to understand and explain what's going on."  What I decided not to say at 9:00 on Saturday night"Do you understand what's going on?"

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My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23