Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Touch

Earlier this week, I attended a seder. Not one a them Christian seders that progressive congregations love to dabble about in as a sign of their general openness to things. Those are fine, I suppose, but I prefer my funk uncut.

This was a seder at my wife's synagogue. It's an extremely progressive and inclusive Jewish community, but also one that is deeply connected with tradition. There's a strong preponderance of unapologetic Hebrew both sung and spoken, mixed in with singing and geetar and an openness to all. I enjoy it.

One of the things that struck me during the service was the use of a phrase during a prayer to describe those who really understood the value of the Passover event. It articulated thems who deeply get it as folks who have known "the Touch." The Touch, as it was used here, described that awareness of G-d's presence, that connectedness to the Creator that goes beyond abstract theological concepts and ritual formalism and doctrinal frameworks and into the existential reality of a person.

I found myself musing on that, and on how it relates to being a pastor. For many years, I struggled with my connection to Christian faith, which had...for all of it's much deep and abiding grace that I found it intellectually and morally compelling. As annoying as I found much of fundamentalist Christianity, I could see even in my annoyance that the core of the faith had ethical validity.

But that conceptual and ethical connection just was not enough for me to feel called to pursue the ministry. It was an appreciation. A sense of being simpatico with the teachings of Christ. But not call, either to be a disciple or a pastor teaching the faith.

Call was different. It came in moments of intense awareness of God's presence that turned my agnosticism's doubt in on itself. Then, in more moments, some vast and deep and infinitely calm. Or in dreams from which I awoke trembling and changed.

Without those, I would most likely still be attending a church. I enjoy the community, introvert though I am. I would certainly still be volunteering time to care for those in need. I've always valued that. But in the absence of that sense of God, that paradoxical connection with the infinitely transcendent grace of our Creator, I know I would never have pursued ministry. It would have felt inauthentic.

So, yeah, I'm a pastor because I'm a little "touched." No surprise there for anyone who knows me.

How important is an awareness of God's presence for those serving as pastors? Is it essential? Trivial? What thinkest thou?