Works’ Righteousness Smack-Down


A pedestrian morning last week in the life of a supposedly sacred call of parish ministry:


Monday, 9:00am: The doorbell rings at home. It is the recent high school grad from the church, here to give your son a ride to church camp, where they are to be counselors together. To be polite, and because your son is not quite ready, you invite him in. To the entryway. Where just to the right hang your clothes on drying racks, because you are a friend of the earth, but perhaps not the sharpest tool in the shed. You pray instant blindness strike this poor teenage boy, faced with your personal items. This is the same child you disabused of Santa Claus in confirmation class. You are not off to a good, holy, sacred start. But you do have clean underwear.


9:30am: Your computer, which was working perfectly fine on the holy Sabbath and allowed you to print out your now long-forgotten sermon, decides to go on vacation with your secretary. Well, at least the Internet portion. Deep sighs. You don’t even know where the modem is.


9:36am: You decide God is telling you to get a’crackin’ on this upcoming week’s sermon. You open your Bible.


3 seconds later: You search, you hunt, you tear apart your wallet, your computer bag, you dump out all contents, including pens that don’t work and loose aspirin and cough drops, but no. No sign of your reading glasses. Which you are loath to admit you need, but let’s face it. You are almost 47 with some of the worst eyes ever. Deep sighs.


9:49am: After many, many deep sighs, you decide to suck it up and reboot your computer to see if that magically fixes the Internet. Of course, it does not.   You decide to step up your game and make sure the wireless button is “on.” You spend 3.3 minutes figuring out if the circle or the straight line means “on.”


9:54am: Fine. You go on a hide-and-seek mission to find the modem. What you discover is a spaghetti noodle mess of cords wrapped around themselves spewing forth from a small corner of the main office. You are reminded of the picture of the baby with spaghetti on your head. You decide it’s too much. You walk away.


9:56am: But Persevere! Says the apostle Paul! So you carefully unplug, untangle, and organize all wires with rubber bands. You check the Internet. No signal. You lay your head on your desk thinking, “What do you want from me, God?” And ponder the existential crisis of modern ministry without technology.


10:33am: You slide your chair as far back from your desk as possible, and decide to squint to at least get started on the sermon. The heck with crows’ feet around the eyes. Ministry wrecks havoc on the wrinkle-prevention program anyway.


11:36am: Is it lunchtime yet? You call your dad for his birthday. He’s not home. Has a modern “water into wine” miracle happened, and the Internet is working? No sign of Jesus today. You sigh again.


11:53am: You know you shouldn’t. The sign on the hard drive of the office server has dire warnings. But you can’t resist temptation another minute. You have lasted all morning in the wilderness of no wifi, and now the devil has shown up, chanting: “Turn it off! Turn it off! Turn it ALL OFF! That will solve it – you know it will!” You hunt and search and play hide-and-seek for the next 23 minutes trying to find the on-off switch on the server, only to realize the on-vacation secretary has covered it up with the dire warning label. You turn it off anyway.


11:57am: No lightening has struck, but no Internet either.  You decide to go visit an older curmudgeonly gentleman who is unhappily in rehab for the fourth week. At least he thinks he’s only been there 12 days or so.


12:09pm: You spend the next hour trying to make him laugh, and get him to stop complaining, and to see the silver lining of the clouds of his unhappiness. You cajole, and tease, and pat his arm. He seems in better spirits when you leave, and then you remember. You didn’t even pray with him.


1:33pm: From the parking lot, feeling totally like a ministry loser, you call your husband for a boost. He cheerfully says, “Well, you know, you are a minister. You could have used the time to pray.” As though you haven’t spent the whole morning praying. Of course, “praying” in the loosest sense possible. You genuinely have been talking to God, but it’s more like cursing God, for the modem that hid, the wires that tangled, the laundry in the entryway, the Internet for disappearing, your own technological ignorance, your own addiction to technology.   Does that count?


1:46pm: You give up. And call it a day. And head to Starbucks, for a consolation latte and free wifi. And wonder what people would think if they knew this is what the holy vocation of ministry looks like. And then it hits you, the one and only catechism anyone still alive who had to memorize the catechism remembers: “Q: What is the chief end of (hu)man (beings)? A: To glorify God and enjoy (their Maker) Him (sic) forever.” And dang it, did you really need one more reminder of your cursed cross of works’ righteousness and your worship of the idol of productivity? Apparently, God thought so. And you know it won’t be the last time you are hit over the head with a holy two by four.


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