Thesis 26: Dishes

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.
When I became a declared candidate for ordination, I joined the Facebook group for the Order of Deacons in the UMC. I've never understood Facebook's weird algorithm for determining what I see in my feed, but it decided early that I didn't need to see what was happening in that group very often. Occasionally, though, it pops up and I'll click on over. There are lots of job posts, helpful pieces of advice, and general support for one another. What amazes me, though, is the ability of the group to occasionally devolve into much ado about nothing.

I'm not necessarily talking about good ol' Facebook bickering, though there's that, too. (I'm lookin' at you, Baby Boomers!) The "nothings" that interest some of my future colleagues in ordained ministry are things like:

  • Wearing one's stole like a deacon, and not like an elder.
  • Being called by the proper title. (Apparently, "pastor" is not appropriate for a deacon.)
  • Which annual conferences "get" deacons and which don't.
The overwhelming tone of the content in the group is supremely helpful and interesting. Don't misunderstand me. But the "nothings" are incredibly telling, and they seem to be saying this: We want attention, we want to be noticed, and we want to be understood. Inherently, there's nothing wrong with any of this, but I'm dismayed that these are common themes I hear frequently from deacons in particular.

If we're committed to the work of the call, if we truly understand our part in the Body, these quintessential examples of "the outside of the bowl" become practically meaningless. Perhaps our infatuation with these things represent a deeper fear, a deeper mistrust of our own inadequacies. The first thing I did when I broke up with a long-time girlfriend not long after college was get a tattoo and a facial piercing. Subconsciously, I probably believed that if I had control over my outward appearance in an arresting way, I could control my internal chaos somehow. 

In a denomination in crisis in many ways, deacons represent fresh, needed perspectives on how to live out church. Rightly so, we do not possess the "power of the keys." And if we're honest with ourselves, our delineations among orders of clergy are arbitrary at best. When we as leaders in the church are at our best, we are intercessors, those who "stop between" our community and service, in prayer, in grief, in praise. We also stop between the church and its environs, as intentional fence-straddlers calling each party to the other, to the negotiating table, to the feast at an ever-elongating Table.

And as we clear the Table after more and more feasts, may we remember to clean the inside of the bowl.


Original image from Wikimedia Commons is used under Creative Commons license. 


Popular Posts