Monday, 8 November 2010

To Tarshish, or Ninevah?

When I was sifting through the whole 'minister, me?' question [hat tip to Mrs Gerbil *grin*] I was offered up a whole range of books as suggested reading fodder.  And oh, my goodness, did you know that there are multitudinous numbers of books on the subject of vocational calling?  I'm not sure whether this is alarming, affirming, or quite what it says about attitudes within various Christian commmunities about models of working/ ministry.  But I digress. I read many of these and yet, somehow, they never quite seemed to fit or ring a little bell inside my head.
Don't get me wrong, there was some very useful reflecting on some very helpful bits 'n pieces... and yet.  I was frustrated by a lot of them and I really couldn't work out why until I was handed Peterson's Under the Unpredictable Plant.
Bells rang a-plenty. 
The thoughts wrapped around me snugly like a warm, woolly fleece on a cold winter's day.
It spoke my language- and felt as if it could have been written just for me.
Happy day.

After long reflection, I realise that while the other books where fine, they were written within an Anglican theological understanding of priesthood.  It is a very different theological kettle of fish to a Reformed understanding of ministry.  Not saying one is better than the other, they are just quite different theologically and because of this, a different praxis emerges.  Of course, I began to wonder just why there were so very many Anglican 'discerning your call' books as per Reformed viewpoints on this topic and why they were all on the list of Ministries Council - but that for another day!

I love the way Peterson challenges the system, especially what he would perceive to be the creeping idolatry of 'careerism' within the church: very hard-hitting stuff and which he likens to Jonah buying a ticket to Tarshish, rather than doing the thankless, possibly less glory-filled job over in Ninevah.
The book cautions against pride, abuse of power, and hiding behind the detachment of a 'professional pastor' veneer.  It urges authenticity at nearly every sentence.  And it works for me.

I keep coming back to this book - indeed - I'm just about to re-read it to see where I may have moved, or what continues to feel affirmed, or where I'm still uncomfortable/ challenged.  No doubt, I'll blog about that at a later point.


Mrs Gerbil said...

*grin* Why, thank you kind miss.

Julie said...

thanks for the reminder.... I have often recommended the unpredictable plant think it's time I re-read it for myself
will share thoughts at a later date

Anonymous said...

I repent of my 'professional pastor' veneer!

Actually there have been times when I wished I had the ambition to develop that veneer -- then I'd appear as a "real" minister.

But rather than ever turning into a "minister" I've usually gone on feeling like someone "doing" the job of a minister.

Theologically, I don't know what to make of this!

THEREFORE, I look forward to any reports on the re-reading of the above book.

Nik said...

I've been side-tracked by John Knox - he has a habit of doing that in my life at the moment: not re-read Petersen as yet. Argh.
I think the key word is 'appear' in that first sentence, Anon. The underlying matter at the heart of it, as I understand Petersen, is the ongoing challenge of remaining authentic - a word I keep coming back to. Perhaps it just all boils down to being human and getting on with it, whatever 'it' is we're called to do... and without getting caught up in all the nonsense that can lead us into losing who we are - and whose we are. Don't know.
Maybe it's a case of called to 'be' human; asked 'to' minister with/ alongside?
Might that sum up the sense of what you say re. 'doing' the job, perhaps?
Works for me... :D

Anonymous said...

Yes, you've got it all right!
"appear" vs. "remaining authentic".

Was it Ron Sider (or someone) who said that
"we become, that as which we are addressed"
-- and sometimes we find ourselves resisting becoming the kind of person others want us to be. And maybe for good reason.

"side-tracted by John Knox"!?!
Maybe you can help me here:

Every month or two, I spend a day at New College Library. About a year ago, as I was coming into the quad., I saw a young male cross over from the Faculty door towards John Knox statue. He kissed his own hand and then placed it on the foot of John Knox, then proceeded past me out onto the street.

Was this a one-off, a dare, or is this form of veneration common among New College students??

Nik said...

lol!! Kissing foxy Knoxy, how marvellous.
Er, no, I don't think it is particularly common. I did, however, once see an older chap in suit coming into the morning session of a Gen Ass who stopped at Knox and bowed his head briefly, and then proceeeded up the stairs.
Cuppa next time you're in perhaps and we can discuss Knox as an idol of the Reformation?! :)

Anonymous said...


So the mystery deepens -- and there does seem to be a research project into protestant feelings toward statues waiting to be done.

I should take you up on the tea sometime. It would be interesting to know what the modern marrow of Divinity is like these days. I was ordained almost 30 years ago (yikes!) so it would be fun to discover the latest ideas of you and your colleagues.

Nik said...

ah, I don't really go much later than the 16th/early 17th century
but the cuppa is always on offer :)

Alison said...

Nik - thank you thank you thank you for this book reference ! I'm in the process of finishing it and it's being so helpful. (I love Eugene's books but I'd never ventured into his 'books for pastors' before). Going through that "what-does-God-want-me-to-do-with-my-life" thing at the moment - which you would think that at 40+ might be easier than when younger - but it isn't...

Nik said...

hehehe, I remember when I had my 15th birthday wondering about what it would be like to be twice my age. Gosh, 30 seemed a magical age, where I would be wise and knowledgable and know what I was doing with my life, and have it all sorted, etc. I don't think we ever really get it together this side of heaven, and am looking forward to going 'ahhhh, so that's what this was all about!' :)
Re. the discernment thang: I'd been running away so long from looking into ministry, that when I finally went, 'okay, already, I'll check it out', it was just a relief!! Blessings on your thinking, sifting and sorting Alison.