I've been struggling this week. I realized that I had all these hopes and dreams coming out of seminary, but when the realities of day-to-day parish ministry took over, I got complacent, lazy even. Most of my time these days is spent in my office with my fingers on a keyboard. Sure, I'm studying scripture in order to preach the living Word to God's people. Sure, I'm praying for the flock of St. Paul's as well as my wider circle of influence. Sure, I'm doing the work of organizing and planning.
But, as the voice from the throne tells John of Patmos, "The home of God is among mortals." God has always shied away from being pinned to a location. He didn't really want a temple. When his chosen people were exiled to Babylon, they were amazed to find God active even there. God in Nineveh? No way!
According to the Catechism the ministry of a priest is, "to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God." (856, BCP) As you read that job description it sounds like the old chaplain to your members idea of the priesthood, but I think I read the pastor to the people differently than most.
When I read "pastor to the people" my first thought is not shepherd to the flock, but that crazy guy who leaves the 99 behind to search for 1 that was lost. Couple that with God's desire to dwell among mortals, a desire so strong that he deigned himself to become one of us, and I think that the chief responsibility of a priest is to be out, in the world, engaging people of all shapes, sizes, and creeds. Not with a Bible in hand to beat them with, or a collar around my neck to guilt them with, but with passion to show them that a) the church is all about love and b) that love is active all around them whether they know it or not.
It'll take some time and a lot of intentionality to reshape my personal ministry paradigm, but I have to get out of this box that I've built for myself. Sure, it is comfortable, but it is not why God called me to ministry and not why St. Paul's invited me to walk with them.
Pray for me friends, the tunnel ahead is long and dark, but I know the path is straight.