Happy Clappy Joy Joy Nope

Hey gang.
A hard week for those who loved and admired Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche community. Another blow in this era of disturbing revelations (although is there really any other kind of era?).

A word to pastors having a hard time with this:

First of all, don’t preach or practice cheap grace, rushed reconcilings and coercive forgiveness. To do so is bad pastoring. Such recommendations are based in shallow theology and perpetuate systems of silencing and oppression.

You are not required to stay positive and hopeful at all times.

There’s a reason the Holy Scriptures don’t hide the sight of Jesus crying over Jerusalem from us. You get to cry over Jerusalem, too.

Don’t let the American idols of perpetual happiness and self-improvement cloud your faith and your integrity of soul.

It may make your people uncomfortable to hear you express your pain, but they are acquainted with the psalms and the prophets, it won’t bother them. Help them build a tolerance for rage and sorrow that the wider culture avoids by any means necessary; many of those means being damaging and addicting.

Your people should be engaged in spiritual practice by which they can be in deep encounter with the love and mystery and even the absence of God themselves. Your feelings and affect (which you do need to manage to a certain degree so as to remain appropriate, functional, present and faithful) should not be the barometer of whether or not your community is doing well. If you and your congregation are so focused on your emotions that it causes people to go into a fix-it panic when you express discouragement or even despair with the world as it is, remind yourself and them that you are not the Faith-Haver-In-Chief. You are there to model faithfulness, to preach the gospel as best you can with an assist from the Holy Spirit, and to facilitate your people’s own spiritual practices and growth.

Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to tell him jokes, keep him happy, distract him or protect him the night he was taken into custody. He just asked them to stay awake with him. Staying awake is hard. Remember how badly the disciples screwed it up.

We approach Lent together. From what things, ideas, products, behaviors, beliefs will you abstain in order to enter into a more intimate relationship with the God who called you to this work?

I have been on sabbatical since November 10th and am beginning to truly understand and respect, through many many hours of reflection and recognition, how demanding the work of ministry has been in this last decade.

You are not responsible for the emotional tenor of your community. You are not required to bring joy and hope every day. This is not a show in which you are the star. This is a pilgrim journey and when the path leads up a steep hill, you are allowed to wipe the sweat from your brow, stumble on the loose rocks and stop for a breather just like everyone else.

Much love and strength to you, and also lots of pancakes on Tuesday. xoxo PB

2 Replies to “Happy Clappy Joy Joy Nope”

  1. I love that Vanier addressed faith and disability, but I have always been bothered by his insistence on the vulnerability of people with disabilities as their greatest asset. I think that this is an important time to be reflective of the strength and resilience of people of all abilities, and to remember authors and leaders in faith and disability who embrace power as the primary strength of people with disabilities.

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