April 9, 2017 | Philippians 2:5-11 | Lent 6
Today I am a pastor but I did not always want to be one. Growing up, I told everyone within earshot that I would NEVER become a pastor. This bold (yet inaccurate) prediction stemmed from the fact that I resented growing up the son of a pastor. But it was not for reasons that other PK’s (pastor’s kids) had. The following are actual statements I have heard from PK friends who ended up not following in their father’s or mother’s footsteps:
I hated how all the adults at church seemed to always focus on me. It was like there was a double standard among church youth and the pastor’s kid was supposed to be “holier” than the other kids.
I hated church politics and how my parents always seemed to get burned or betrayed by church leaders who were supposed to support them.
a PK colleague once shared with me his story of when his dad announced one day that he was giving up his lucrative career to enter seminary and go into full-time ministry. A fifth grader at the time, the only question my friend came up with was, “Dad, does this mean we’re going to be poor?“
Double Standards. Church politics. The Pall of Pastoral Poverty. As the French like to say, “Le Struggle is Real.”
My dislike of the pastoral vocation came down to one reason alone: the dreaded possibility of moving churches. As the son of a United Methodist clergyman, I experienced numerous church re-appointments, which also meant finding a new home, a new school, and new friends. As a young child, these transitions were fairly easy to make. But it was the final two moves that would prove to be the most traumatic and painful. The summer after my sixth grade, my parents announced that we were moving down to San Diego (from Arcadia). This meant that I would have to leave all my church friends and school classmates behind. While this move stung, it would pale in comparison to another relocation I would have to make three years later.
I was 14 years old, a freshman at Mt. Carmel High School in Rancho Peñasquitos. My best friend in school had already turned 16 and had a car so we were literally the youngest kids on the block cruising around on Friday nights getting Blizzards at Dairy Queen. Hormones were raging so I had all kinds of crushes – usually on youth group girls who were older and always seemed to smell so lovely. But my idyllic adolescence came crashing down when my parents informed me that we were moving to Hawaii.
I remember praying the night I heard of our eventual move: God, please please please don’t make us move to Hawaii. Life is so good here in San Diego. Please don’t make us move. Make the Bishop change his mind.
God did not answer that prayer. More specifically, God did not answer that prayer to my liking. We moved, my heart grew a little harder, and my prognostications about never becoming a pastor became louder. I told anyone and everyone who cared to listen to an angry, jaded pastor’s kid, “I’m never becoming a pastor.”
Today, I am an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. By the grace of God, I lack the gift of prophecy and all my boasts came to naught.
And as I reflect on today’s Lectionary Reading from St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, I find comfort in knowing that Christ our Lord did not have a similar aversion to becoming the Savior of the world. I close with this Scripture as a good reminder for not only myself but for all of us, that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to lead a selfless, obedient life.
Thanks be to God.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.