Friday, June 25, 2010
Pastors' Kids and Dining Etiquette
So here goes …
Research has shown that many pastors’ children do not become terrorists. They become gifted leaders. It’s true. Pastors' children make great contributions in all sorts of fields. Some of the world’s most gifted artists, presidents, psychologists and scientists have been pastor’s children.
We are what we eat.
Conversation around dining room tables, theological disputes, church crisis and endless lectures on scripture and church history develops young minds.
The parish life doesn’t always lead young minds into service for the church, however.
Young John Adams was about to go into church work. Then he heard a parishioner speaking disrespectfully to his father one evening about some petty business in the church. So John Adams decided on the spot that the pastorate was just not for him.
It wasn’t the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.
Young Adams did well for himself though; he was a little paranoid at times, but still …
We are what we eat. We become what we consume. We grow into what we devour.
This the whole idea behind communion, of course: that if we feast on Christ, we will become like Christ.
It’s difficult to draw life lessons from Communion though. We argue about the subject too much. We can’t even seem to agree about what to call it. Should it be “the Eucharist,” (which means “thanksgiving;”) “The Lord’s Supper;” Holy Communion;” or The Lord’s Table?”
We also argue about what Communion means. We argue about what happens when we receive it. We argue about how often we should receive it. We argue about what it is that we receive when we receive it. We argue about whether the bread should be leavened or unleavened. We argue about whether we should use wine, grape juice or Kool-Aid. And we argue about those absolutely detestable, abominable, flip-top plastic communion thingabobs.
Why do we argue so much about Holy Communion?
We argue about it because it is important.
In the gospel of John, chapter six, Jesus said:
I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
“Well, yuck!” the people replied. The passage sounds gross to modern ears and, evidently they sounded just as gross to first century ears!
Some Christians still insist that Jesus was not talking about actual eating but about some sort of spiritual reality that was like eating. However, the people who heard Jesus say those words thought that he meant precisely what it sounded like he was saying. That’s why they ran away.
Intimacy with God is frightening.
But what does Communion mean?
Eating seems, well, so base – so carnal! What possible spiritual significance can eating have?
But think about it. What was the first significant thing that people did in Eden? They ate something that was not good for them. They got very serious indigestion. The bad food not only affected their bodies but their entire being! What they ate released a spiritual poison into their lives.
When we eat or drink we take substance into ourselves. That substance becomes a part of us.
When Church is sacramental instead of an idol (read my last blog about that), spiritual life flows into those who partake of it. Pastors' children eat and drink the effects of church life every day. Sometimes what they consume fills them full of life. Sometimes what they consume fills them with bitterness and rage.
It’s no wonder that some of them become terrorists while others become healers, educators and counselors. Some churches are life-giving; others are toxic. Some are sacramental conduits of grace. Others are idols.
A wise pastor-parent must discern what sort of church he or she is dealing with and whether to serve it or to shake the dust off and move on. If the church is an idol, the pastor will do that for his children’s sake.
Otherwise the child may feel compelled to blow up something later on – maybe even a church!
*Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (the son of a pastor)