Diary of a Plain Pastor: Wonder

The shabbiest tuppeny doll will rejoice a baby’s heart for half the year, but your mature gentleman’ll go yawning his head off at a five-hundred franc gadget. And why? Because he has lost the soul of childhood. Well, God has entrusted the Church to keep that soul alive, to safeguard our candour and freshness … I’m not stopping you from calculating the process of the equinoxes or splitting the atom. But what would it profit you even to create life itself, when you have lost all sense of what life really is? Might as well blow your brains out among your test-tubes.                                      {Diary of a Country Priest}

There’s lots of talk in the church about getting the soul alive. I don’t hear as much talk about keeping the soul alive.

The old wizened priest, the one who’d live many years and served a simple parish and outlived most of his superiors as well as the various ecclesiastical fixations, had come to believe that the church was a caretaker, a guardian of the soul. There are lots of things the church does. There are many areas to which we speak. However, none of it takes precedent over the most basic function of assisting people in staying alive. Alive in God.

At the core, this means we do simple things. We remind people of who God is. We remind people of who they are. And then we teach people to keep their eyes open, watching for all the wonder God is crafting in us and around us.

Theological precision, astute and engaging preaching, missional initiatives, well-crafted liturgy – each of these, important as they are, must not be ends in themselves. They are the soil in which the soul grows. They are the fruit from a life lived awake in God’s garden.

Wonder is an important word here. I’d like to add it to our routine vocabulary. Perhaps as often as these questions: Is it correct? Is it effective? Is it scalable? We could ask Does it evoke wonder? Does it give me a greater sense of self and control or a greater sense of God? Does it move me to love?

When I ponder the many (and varied) expectations now prevalent for us pastors, the truth is that I don’t meet up well to many of them. Some of them I need to work on, and some of them I need to let go. But I think a prime calling for me is to help a person guard their soul, to ask them if they’re alive – and to encourage them to walk among the living.

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