Odysseus, in Homer’s Odyssey, learns about an enchanting song sung by the sirens of the sea. The song seduces the hearts of the unsuspecting sailors causing them to sail to destruction. The rocky shoals are covered with the wreckage of ships drawn by the tantalizing sirens. Circe suggested a way to Odysseus so they could avoid disaster. Odysseus would have his seamen cram their ears with beeswax to block the sounds of the sirens’ sweet song. The sailors, then, could keep their ship sailing safely through the dangerous waters. Being lashed to the mast by his men, Odysseus could listen to the enthralling siren voices, but he could not escape and command his sailors to steer both toward the beautiful sounds and certain death. Odysseus could scream at his men to alter course toward the sirens, but the sailors would not hear him.
How does “lashed to the mast” apply to the pastor but also to any of our callings? Good image? What are the temptations to leave
With this epic scene in mind, Eugene Peterson develops a framework for ordained ministry. Ordained ministry is highly suspect among some today. To begin with, EHP takes sin, personal and cultural sin, very seriously. When sin is reduced to prohibited behaviors rather than to dark powers living within and around us, the very idea of being tempted, betrayed from the inside may be easily and is often played down. The evangelical church today seems to enjoy the sirens’ songs and turns them into praise choruses.
Peterson writes, “It is very difficult to do one thing when most of the people around us are asking us to do something quite different, especially when these people are nice, intelligent, treat us with respect, and pay or salaries.” How can we pastors keep from getting lured into the treacherous waters of religious shop-keeping for consumer spirituality? EHP suggests “An illusion-bashing orientation helps. Take a look at the wreckage around us—wrecked bodies, wrecked marriages, wrecked careers, wrecked plans, wrecked families, wrecked alliances, wrecked friendships, wrecked prosperity. We avert our eyes. We try not to dwell on it. We whistle in the dark.” I am convinced that if we don’t stare long and hard at the evils of this world, we will not be grasped tightly enough by God’s rugged, difference-making grace. There’s no sense in just being nice, in sticking plastic flowers in the barrels of drug-runners’ rifles.
Of “the servant of Yahweh” it was written, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Jesus intentionally waded into the vast wasteland of human wreckage. He did so with visceral compassion, limitless love, keen wit and resolute will. Time and again Jesus heard the alluring tune of the sirens’ song, most temptingly in Gethsemane. Thankfully he stayed lashed to the mast of his Father’s purpose, exemplified in the mast called the cross. In the happy Disneyland of the USAmerican evangelical church it is no wonder so many do not comprehend the depth, danger and beauty of pastoral ordination.