Moving into the neighborhood
April 15, 2020
The liturgical year for Christians is filled with events that orient, providing opportunities for worship, study, dynamic challenges and personal growth. The liturgical cycle guides us in our contemplations and, used appropriately, enables us to integrate religion into our personal lives in meaningful ways. The cycle permits us to move freely and comfortably in our challenged understandings while allowing leeway to explore anew each portion throughout the year.
As part of the cycle, we incorporate drama and color and symbolism, sometimes to great effect, in highlighting the various components of our faith journey. Much like the four seasons of the year, each one moving into another, the liturgical cycle brings fresh perspective and welcome change to the sameness that can invade all our lives.
Most any pastor can describe the pinch points in the year, those event moments that must be attended to out of tradition and habit. Failing to cover all the bases is simply not allowed when it comes to religious infrastructure and congregational expectation. It can lead to high rates of burnout and compassion fatigue, not only for the pastor but for caregiving teams such as deacons who assist in pastoral care.
It’s easy to take pastors for granted, men and women of faith who, after all, have accepted a call that invites high reproach. Like other essential personnel in large and small communities alike, pastors are especially vulnerable to the pressures of their calling, often feeling like they must always set the perfect example for others. To show weakness is to fail to practice what one preaches, and the constant expectation to perform beyond oneself is always present. Natural-born superheroes are in short supply, and that includes those serving pastorates.
As in many other vocations, pastors discover quite quickly that they cannot be all things to all people. Jesus contemplated that numerous times, and when burdens became too oppressive, he sought out places of silence for meditation and prayer, momentarily stepping aside from life turned frenetic. His greatest desire for solitude was often found in moments of utmost demand from others: physical, mental and spiritual. Would it be possible to simply invite Jesus to be present in our communities without demanding something from him?
Be aware of the liturgical cycle in your own religious setting, and the expectations that accompany. Self-care is the buzz word in many professions these days, but self-care does not happen in a vacuum. It comes in part through the grace of others and a willingness to see pastors as human. And as human as they are, there is also the real possibility of the true presence of Christ in their unadorned lives. In what ways do pastors encourage Jesus to live in our neighborhoods? Is he already embedded and merely avoiding the limelight? Will we recognize him if we see him?
Resurrection occurs every day if we are willing to acknowledge it. We don’t have to wait on the liturgical cycle to bring Jesus close, we don’t need to have God on a schedule, we don’t require special words or incantations to invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit. Will you let your pastor know when Jesus moves into the neighborhood? You might be surprised who all shows up on your doorstep.