I told someone recently that the pastorate is harder than I expected, but more rewarding than I imagined. As I continue to grow in wisdom I find myself more confident in counseling and exercising my daily pastoral duties. It is rare to be in a position where you taste so many rewards and hardships in such a small amount of time.
This morning before I arrived at the office, I had already received two phone calls dealing with two extremely different issues. They weren’t difficult counseling matters, but my parishioners wanted to hear something sound. They have grown to expect more than the typical cliches. I felt rewarded in directing them.
As I drove to the office I realized that Peter’s reaction on the Mount of Transfiguration is much like the calling of a minister. “Why can’t I just rest in my ministerial successes and build a few tents on the mountain?” But the pastoral life is not lived in the mountain alone. We need to grasp–as ministers–that Jesus treasures our labors in the valley. The glory of the mountains is only an eschatological glimpse of the pastoral ministry. Brokenness is everywhere. The valley is where we live. Once in a while God will transport us to the mountain, in the meanwhile, we need to keep looking up to see that transfigured image. Peter had the right idea, but it just wasn’t the right time.
The pastoral ministry is glorious. I have the privilege of being involved in the many new beginnings of human life (baptism and marriage) and the death before life dimension of it as well (funerals). The ministry is more transfiguration than valley. It’s just that along the way to the mountain there are many hills, many sessions, many rebukes, and many sorrows. The joy of ministry is carrying parishioners to the mountain, and persuading them at times that there is a mountain, even when the hope of reaching it is dying.