Aging is a phenomenal journey as it provides an ever increasing knowledge of people and circumstances. Daily the void of understanding is added upon. It would be wonderful, if earlier in life one could know more and see further, rather than the “Ready, Fire, Aim” trial-risk avoidance process we all use. Rest assured, “iron sharpens iron!”
Then there is the element of calling, which some, more than others seem guided by. Such has been the case with me. At the age of nine, I literally heard a voice say, “One day you will preach the gospel.” It was a life altering moment, for that has now become the filter for my decisions in life. Yet unlike so many, who from just such a moment, head straightway into pulpit ministry, that has never seemed quite the post for delivering my call.
I have walked through quite precarious situations as both sinner and saint. I have beneficially coached and advised those of the more conventional mantle, seen physical miracles, and frankly because of my somewhat maverick pathway, been in places that members of the cloth might never have been privileged to go. I say that with all humility, recognizing the meager theological preparation afforded my life.
Yet, here I am nearing 67 this month and still wrestling with the word preach. “The image cast, when mentioning the word preaches or preacher to many of us, may be of Elmer Gantry standing on a box on a dusty western street, or perhaps you think of your pastor on Sun-day morning. The etymology of the idea of preaching, however, comes from the Hebrew word parash (פרש). The sh sound was, over time, reduced to a shorter ch sound. Originally, to preach meant to declare the mind of YHVH.(1)
It might have helped that day at the age of nine, had I heard these words, “One day you will declare the mind of YHVH”? Given my upbringing, the Elmer Gantry image was more what I envisioned and in fact, have consciously avoided. God knows our personal bent and I suspect the language of our calling is part and parcel of the Holy tension that shapes our lives, whether for pulpit or marketplace?
My days as a science teacher certainly provided moments for me to declare the mind of YHVH. I hear from students weekly about my impact on their lives. Then there were the wonderful days as an associate to the superintendent, reaching out to a city on behalf of children, not to speak of my days in office as mayor.
Why am I sharing these thoughts? Perhaps this elder can better assure a younger generation that the linear progression from calling to seminary may not be the only avenue for the one called according to His purpose. Let your voice be heard, wherever you are called to “declare the mind of YHVH” be it mechanic, banker, educator or clergy!