Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hosting God and the Church

In an essay aptly entitled "Preacher as Host and Guest," John McClure, a preaching professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, talks about how we who preach fulfill the ancient role of "host" in that “we welcome all with a word to share into dialogue so that the word and wisdom of God might be discerned for the community.”[1] In short, our pastoral presence through word and deed sets the stage for experiencing a divine encounter. Yet, how do we serve as “host”? My practice has always been to greet as many people as possible before, during and after the service. Yet, try as hard as I might, I cannot shake every single hand or hug every single shoulder. Most people, I have found, understand this--there is only one of me and 100 (or 150 or 200 or whatever) of them. . .and the line at Applebees' is only getting longer.

However, some take great offense when I do not speak with them or shake their hand. At a previous congregation, I was criticized for not being "friendly" enough. When I probed the criticism, I discovered that there was one wealthy couple that did not think that I was giving them enough attention (meaning, ALL of my attention). My focus had been on welcoming the new families who had been attending and encouraging our new, young leaders rather than “buttering my bread.”

Yet, there are some who are quieter and more reserved who are personally appalled by the thought of talking to the minister, of "wasting his time." If I am not attuned to this, he/she will come to think that I am excluding them from my circle and, conversely, from the congregation. We should and must shake the hands of our friends and benefactors. Yet we should not forget that we are the host of the party and should make sure that all feel welcome and accepted, even if that means catching up with someone later in order to be pastoral to the other.
[1]John S. McClure, “Preacher as Host and Guest,” in Slow of Speech and Unclean Lips: Contemporary Images of Preaching Identity, ed. Robert Stephen Reid (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 123.

No comments: