I’ve been called to become a pastor in the Lutheran church. That’s what this is gonna be about.
This is gonna be somewhat self-revealing, which I’m not really crazy about – I’m an introvert and I don’t think I’m all that interesting. And this isn’t supposed to be about me – it’s really about God and my experience of God and my desire to share that experience because I think it’s valuable. Actually, I think it’s the most important thing there is – and the only thing that makes it possible for me to keep going. I dunno about you, but I live in a really fucked up world. People are suffering and dying and doing really awful things all over the fuckin’ place and there don’t seem to be any end of it in sight. Some people I know have this ridiculous idea that people are gonna start acting right – caring for each other and the environment and generally being nice, which I think is fuckin’ crazy. People are the people who created this shitstorm – hoping for people to fix it is no hope at all, as far as I’m concerned. So, as outlandish as it might be, I’m putting my hope in the Divine Mystery, because it’ll take a fuckin’ miracle to pull this burning bus out of the ditch. It’ll take a fuckin’ miracle for me to actually become a pastor, for that matter, but God is in the miracle business, so I guess He can handle it. Or nobody can.
I’ve been on a spiritual journey for a couple decades now – ever since I got sober in Feb’98. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I also have a mental disorder – actually, more than one: chronic depressive disorder and reoccurring major depressive disorder with psychotic features. “Psychotic features” sounds like a lot more fun than it actually is. When I was in rehab, I was told that I’d be a lot better off if I developed some kinda spirituality – they seemed to think that I had no chance whatsoever to stay clean and sober, but were unwilling to say that I was beyond Divine Intervention. Basically, the vibe was “it’d take a fuckin’ miracle for this guy to stay sober” and I didn’t disagree with that assessment, so I started developing some kinda spirituality and relying on it even though I didn’t actually believe in it at the time – or maybe I did. It’s hard to be sure what was going on in my head at the time because, like I said, I was batshit crazy. But it’s worked so far.
I’ve had various encounters with Divinity since then. I’ve studied all the major religious traditions and some of the minor ones. Religion and spirituality are really interesting to me – certainly more interesting than anything else I can think of. (I used to be really interested in women with their clothes off, but that got old.) I’ve learned a lot about the various ways people have tried to have some kinda relationship with the Absolute, Ineffable, Eternal and Infinite Mystery that is Everything and More and I’ve appreciated a lot of it while also seeing that it’s all inadequate and a lot of it is somewhat silly. (Don’t start about religious wars and shit – it doesn’t reflect badly on religion when people don’t do what their religion tells them to do – and it ain’t like atheists have a better track record.) I’ve participated in a few different faith communities – I was a Unitarian-Universalist for a few years, but then I got tired of going to a church that didn’t have a God so I quit. For about six months after that, I wasn’t going to any church. My nine-year-old daughter would mention it occasionally, but she wasn’t all that motivated – I think she was just used to me making her get dressed and go someplace on Sundays. She is a believer – we’ve had many conversations about God – but she was having the same experience of the U-U church that I was – just ain’t nothin’ there. At various points, I thought about becoming a preacher – mostly thinking that I was never gonna find a church that I was and I’d be better off starting my own. That seemed like work and there was no reason to think anybody would be interested in what I had to say. Plus I wasn’t sure what my focus would be beyond some vague mumbo-jumbo about my experiences, which are about impossible to articulate, a problem that every mystic has encountered.
So I was kinda lookin’ around for another church.I went to a youthy, cool Methodist church where I was greeted by some jolly, bearded hipster in a Star Wars t-shirt who turned out to be the minister. Fuck that – being comfortable is fine, but if you’re a person of the cloth, it’s more than fine to fuckin’ dress like it. And who wants their preacher to be a buddy/bro anyway? I’m looking for spiritual guidance, not a dude to hang out with. A couple friends of mine are Lutherans – and they’re lesbians, so I knew the church wasn’t all homophobic. I started listening to podcasts to get some kinda spiritual input – mostly “On Being” and “Interfaith Voices”, both of which suffer from being NPR-y, but are tolerable – and I heard an interview with Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is a bit of a hipster, but who is doing some very good stuff for the church – definitely a better public persona than that creepy old creep, Garrison Keillor, who is a creep. And I checked out the website for the local Lutheran church – this was back in the first week of December. The local church was about to get a new pastor – starting first Sunday of January. So I decided I’d wait ’til the newb started and then show up to check it out.
And then I was called. Outta the blue, I got a message – become a minister in the Lutheran church. Boom. I’ve gotten messages before – several of them. The first one was about getting sober. I tried to ignore that one and shit got very worse very fast – Jonah and whale-type shit. I got an Associate’s Degree in mental health stuff, became a father, became a part-owner in a small business – all because I was inspired to do so. “Inspired” means a spirit told you to do it, which is about the same as saying “I got a message from God”. The various lines of thought converged and I knew that I was called to become a Lutheran pastor. My first reaction was “Yes!” because I’d been feeling outta sorts, like I knew something was looming, some kinda change, and I’d been praying for willingness and such. Then I started thinking “This is gonna be work” and I tried to find a way to weasel out of it, because I wasn’t about to just refuse it because of the Jonah/whale experience I mentioned. And then I accepted that this is what it is and that was a couple weeks ago.
I went to church the following Sunday – a few weeks earlier than I’d planned – and fell in love with the Lutheran service. It was all I wanted – chanting and formality and pastors wearing elaborate get-ups. I did some research and found out that I’m in sync with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) politically and socially and all that. I started reading about Martin Luther – really, it’s like I been a Lutheran all along and just didn’t know it. I contacted somebody at the Synod – that’s a word I learned – and met with the new pastor when she started. There’s still a buncha shit I gotta learn – like is it Pastor or pastor – but I’ve started.
It’s weird, but also makes sense. And it makes sense to write about it. I’m gonna have to write sermons at some point so this is like practice – I know how to write, but I ain’t so good at organizing. And I’m very interested in communicating what I’ve experienced of God – I also gotta get used to mostly using Christian lingo – and this is a free and fairly easy way of putting things out for people if they wanna read it, which is doubtful.
Yeah. So that’s that.