I’ve Been a Grump
As a good Mennonite, I recognize the need to channel my aggression in a more positive direction. So, over the past few years, I have charged aggressively at racism, sexism, homophobia, the systemic forces that subjugate the poor.
My poor congregation. They don’t need to hear that same message, I mean that same rant, again.
I know them. I know their hearts and lives. They don’t need to hear me harangue. But I’m a grump.
[Interesting side note: when looking for images that convey grumpiness, it’s mainly cats. Just thought you should know.]
Today, as I blathered on about whatever to my therapist, I realized – it was an epiphany – I’m pissed off. Probably like a lot of other pastors, like a lot of other people. This is not ok. This. This “this”, it is not as it should be.
I’m not alone. Maybe I just haven’t thrown in the towel yet. Last fall, research from the Barna Group recognized this pattern, “about 38 percent of Protestant senior pastors surveyed have considered leaving ministry over the past year. Among pastors under age 45, that number rose to 46 percent” (SoJoNet, November 30, 2021).
Whining Had Its Place
Some think of Jeremiah as a whinny prophet, weepy. Just sad. But he had good reason to be. He watched (though he also warned) those in power of the consequences of their choices. As Jerusalem fell around him, even as he was put into chains, Jeremiah stayed grounded. He knew his home. He recalled his place. They tried to chain him up and drag him off to Babylon, but he stayed back due to the kindness of a Babylonian guard. It’s an amazing story of how this guard offered Jeremiah to stay or go. But if he stayed, he had to check in Babylon’s puppet ruler, Gedaliah. Read Jeremiah 39-40, sometimes it feels positively contemporary.
In fact it is the grumpy and unpleasant words that Jeremiah spoke that were at the heart of his freedom. As the Babylonian guard freed Jeremiah he said,
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in fetters along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, ‘The Lord your God threatened this place with this disaster; and now the Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said, because all of you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice. Therefore, this thing has come upon you. Now look, I have just released you today from the fetters on your hands. If you wish to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will take good care of you; but if you do not wish to come with me to Babylon, you need not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go. (Jeremiah 40.1-4).
There may be some benefits to being a grump, as long as you’re correct, and your guard knows it.
Hoping Makes Me Dissatisfied
I remember feeling clever as a young preacher when I titled a sermon “holy dissatisfied.” I felt so proud of my crafty play on words. Over the years, I have seen that phrase used over and again. I think it is a preacher go-to play on words when creativity fails. Nonetheless, the idea has merit.
Hope makes me contemplate the holy expectation of God’s coming fulness and presence. Hope builds up a dissatisfaction with anything less. So, if I were to stop hoping, perhaps I would stop feeling grumpy and pissed off. Was it hope that made the prophets so disagreeable?
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