Friends in Christ,
Several years ago on a church-related trip to Pensacola, FL to conduct a wedding I enjoyed periodic opportunities to read from a book titled, “My Struggle for Freedom,” by Hans Kung, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian. Years earlier Kung’s “On Being a Christian” was required reading in my systematic theology class. I also enjoyed the afternoon when this world-renowned theologian lectured on the campus of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The environment in the Chapel was nothing short of electric.
Sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home I read with great interest Kung’s tribute to a friend he admired for the manner in which he did the work of parish ministry. Kung writes, “What is the secret of this obviously charismatic youth leader, confessor, preacher, pastor – the sort of man one would want to find more often among our clergy? As I shall understand better later on, the secret of this utterly human and sometimes all-too-human pastor of souls is that in him the spirit is at work of that spirit of the man who 2000 years ago attached no importance to clerical dress or clerical gestures. He took everyone as they were in their weakness and fragility, and treated them with utter seriousness as the people they were, the creatures whom God wanted to be like this. He didn’t simply want to make people someone else, didn’t condemn them, but gave them a new chance. He never interrogated anyone in inquisitorial fashion about their beliefs and condemned them, but was able to look into their hearts. He avoided all exaggerated piety, didn’t build up any position of sacral power, but went before them in the service of humanity.
It is the spirit of Jesus that is at work inconspicuously and gently in this clergyman: the liberating features of Jesus are the secret behind all the human charm and the all-too-human limitations of this priest. And it is the depth of this Jesus-like character that calls me as a young man along the way of the ‘clergy’ and will remain my model.” (Hans Kung, My Struggle for Freedom, © 2003, Wm. N. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., English Edition, pages 32-33)
Please forgive me for the long quotation, but each time I read and ponder this narrative I come away with the same conviction as Hans Kung. This humble pastor remains a model for me, too. As I thank God for the opportunity to serve you in the work of parish ministry, I do so with the simple and fervent prayer that the spirit of Jesus is working in me. For all of us, as we go about our daily chores and work, may we hear the voice of Jesus when he said, “Abide in me and I will abide in you.” (John 15:4) May the spirit of Jesus be at work in each and every one of us as we, in the words of Jesus, obey our Lord’s mandate to love one another. Amen.
Peace and Grace,
+ Pastor Steve