Monday, February 13, 2012

Pastors and Priests

I’ve been reading the book of Hebrews in the Bible for several months now.  Amongst other ideas about Christ, angels, faith, and rest, this book has prompted me to reflect on this role I fill—ordained pastor.  I do feel as if God has set me apart and called me to ministry.  It’s an honor, a privilege, a burden, and something I approach with caution.  As Spiderman says, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  I feel that responsibility to show people God, to teach them about Him, to lead them closer to Him, to represent Him, to speak His truth.
Hebrews 5:2-4 says of a priest, “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.  This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.  No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.”
This is a large part of what I do.  I try to deal gently (most of the time) with people who lack knowledge of God and are sometimes going astray.  I am certainly subject to weakness, and I do feel called by God.
Later in Hebrews it says, “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” (7:12) Now, the law dictates who can be a priest, so changing the priesthood really would change the law in the Old Testament.  But this also makes me think of other changes in leadership.  Every time a new CEO, or principal, or college President, or pastor, or TV show host takes a position, they have to make changes, make their mark, set the tone for their leadership.
I think of this as I give away sections of the student ministry at my church.  As another considers taking the lead on the junior high ministry, or the mission trip, or the retreat, I have to be willing to let them make their changes, make their marks, and set the tones for their unique leadership approaches.
I also think of this in light of an e-mail I read recently in which Rick Warren was processing the passing of the leadership baton at his church from the first generation to the next generation.  In his words, you could hear the pain and joy, grief and hope that accompany this transition.  There is a change of priesthood in his church, and there will be changes in how that church creates, functions, leads, and pastors.
As a side note, this is one of the things I love about reading the Bible.  Words written a long, long time ago by an unknown human hand had perfect relevance to the original audience of Jews trying to grapple with this new Jesus movement.  And those words have perfect relevance to us now, too.  I love that!
I kept reading in Hebrews this morning, and I came upon this passage:
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (7:23-25)
None of us pastors or priests will continue in our offices forever; death will prevent that.  But, we all have a priest who will never die.  He lives forever, always exercising the duties of priesthood.  He can save us, and all those for whom we care, completely!  We cannot save anyone partially.  He always saves.  He always lives.

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