When Pastor Sins

I came back from Baltimore filled with fire and Jesus. I felt close to God and was living into the prophetic nature of pastoring. After a couple great conversations with two people who are interested in looking at new ways of worship, I sat down and began writing a four page letter laying out a ministry plan. I made the horrible decision–whether conscious or otherwise–to take the approach of a Hebrew Bible prophet. The language was both sharp and blunt; the expression of ideas was not invitational, but rather was accusational; and while I had convinced myself that I was not threatening anyone, the missive was filled with veiled and not-so-veiled threats. In other words, it will serve as Exhibit A in my own personal trial before Pilate. 


Last night, I was rightly held accountable for what I had done. I imagine what I underwent was that which Frank Costanza imagined when he dreamed up the “Airing of Grievances” during Festivus. It was tough love in action, the gritty stuff that Jesus tells us we must engage in to exist inside of community. I listened. I managed not to be defensive, and I heard what needed to be said. I’ll admit. I cried in the meeting. I have cried since. I have deep, deep regret. I caused people I honestly care about pain. I violated their trust. I did that, despite my good intentions. 

I believe in owning sin. Forgiveness is empty if one does not examine the pain and angst one has caused in the lives of others. Forgiveness is only real when the person seeking it truly understands the error of his or her ways. I’m not interested in flogging myself or wallowing in self-pity. My ego got me into this mess. Well, my ego and fear. Fear of my financial situation. Fear about my health. Fear about my future. Fear about the future of the community.  Fear leads to pain and suffering. Yoda is right. Jesus, too. 

I am reflecting on my passion and how I direct and express it. I am thinking about what I can do to check myself, to slow down, to prevent getting into situations in which I might do something reckless. I am understanding that my intellect and passion are gifts, but also dangers. I sometimes don’t slow down and think about the present moment, as I am focused on a dream that takes place in the future. 

I have some ideas about what we can do as a congregation. But that is not up to me. It is up to the congregation, going at a pace that makes sense for them and achieves a community that they desire. I misunderstood the role I am to play at this time, in this place. I cannot try to lead from the front. I need to be walking with the congregation, making suggestions and listening to what they see and want. 

I’m always learning. About myself. About God. About this job. And I stumbled this week. I sinned. I feel very fortunate to be within a religious  system that teaches us about honest repentance and reconciliation. I submit myself to God’s grace and love. 

One thought on “When Pastor Sins

  1. I have always seen my role as Miriam, not Moses. Moses led from the front and tried to yell, “Keep up!” Miriam picked up a tambourine in the back and sang, talked to the others about what had happened and pushed people along. (I know this is more in my head then what actually happened). There’s also a beautiful image of a shepherd, they herd from the back, when sheep go astray, they may run forward to help and then return to the back and push them forward.

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