Become like... Children? You sure? (9/19/21)

Rev. Jessica Palys

Before I get started, I just want to say thank you to Stephen King and Anton Jacobs for filling the pulpit in my absence and especially to Anton for shepherding the Klassen family through a painful period of grief. It’s unusual for a pastor to take such a long absence after only 10 weeks in the pulpit, but I’m so grateful for both the learning embedded in the week of transitional ministry training, and for the extended amount of time to tend to my friends’ wedding as well as see loved ones that I haven’t been able to visit for 18 months.

I am also thankful for Jerry, and Kelli, our music department, and Emily, Curtis and Lee, our administrative team this year, for all they do to keep this church stable and functioning; running a church ain’t no small matter. And lastly, to Sue Ann and all the volunteers who were already working daily on the rummage sale before I ever left town, and apparently just kept at it all the way through yesterday. What an amazing amount of work and dedication to pull that off.

While I was away, I attended the Transitional Ministry Education Consortium’s week-long training in order to learn some techniques and sharpen my skills in walking with a congregation through transition. The workshop was originally for interim pastors who come between long term pastors, but now it’s generally acknowledged that nearly all our congregations are in a constant state of transition. With demographics and culture changing so fast, society demands that faith communities adjust along with them - or fade into the past. But, as we like to say in organizing, change brings movement, and movement brings friction, and friction brings heat; that is to say, tension often arises in the midst of change, as well as uncertainty and anxiety. That in itself is not a bad thing, because periods of transition and uncertainty are often times of great growth and development - I mean, think back to your own life and about times you were in transition and how you emerged on the other side. Indeed, sometimes transition is when the holy spirit sneaks in. But periods of transition and uncertainty are rarely comfortable, for us as individuals or as organizations.

Uncertainty was certainly facing the disciples here in this scripture passage. Today’s gospel reading is the second time in as many chapters when Jesus foretells a mystifying end; the son of man will be ‘handed over’ to be killed, and will rise again in 3 days. The disciples, so starry eyed about the evidence of God’s power in Jesus, so hyped up to be a part of God’s kingdom, really thought that meant taking over their promised land with righteous might and the power of God. They were jazzed to be part of the soon-to-be ruling class, and were arguing about who might have the greater rank after it was all said and done. And just like us, they were trying think about who would be part of the in-crowd, who would get the most likes, who would have the respect of their peers.

Now, it’s important to note how society was different back in Jesus’ day. Keep in mind that back in Jesus’ time, there was no such thing as Capitalism - that system and all its benefits and evils wouldn’t come for 1500 more years. Rather, in Jesus’ time the governing system was an honor-based system called patronage. People traded on reputation, much more so than they do today. It was a system with Patrons - people of higher wealth, prestige and power, and clients of lower status. Clients would always seek to secure someone wealthier with higher status as patrons in order to solidify their status and allow them to climb. Reputations and connections to those with higher status was as important to economic potential as it was to popularity; every relationship was transactional. As a client, your labor and skills woul