June 20, 2021 “The Pitfalls and Perils of Being a PK”
“The Pitfalls and Perils of Being a PK”
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ~ Plato
“He who has overcome his fears is truly free.” ~ Aristotle
A couple years back when we could do such things, we were having a bar-b-que at the neighbors’ house on a beautiful summer’s day. All told, there were 3 couples sitting around the back yard and half of them worked in a school district in some capacity or other. So, the conversation was a little one-sided, if you know what I mean. Now, don’t get me wrong: I find the passion that educators have for their work to be truly amazing. But for those of us non-educators who would thoroughly enjoy talking about fishing or football or even, God forbid, politics, it is sometimes a little hard to get a word in edgewise – if you know what I mean.
The third couple at the bar-b-que were from Butte, MT, so to break things up I asked them what it was like growing up in Butte. The husband talked about old abandoned mine shafts and tourists and winters that were bitter cold. When his wife started to describe her childhood, he interrupted, saying, “She’s a PK, you know.” Now, I’m going to assume that we all know that feeling of what it’s like to be the only one in the room that doesn’t know what people are talking about. “She’s a PK,” and that meant nothing to me, yet everyone else sat there nodding their heads like this was yesterday’s news. So rather than wait around in total ignorance until I figured it out myself (or not), I simply asked, “What’s a PK?” “A pastor’s kid,” her husband laughed. “She grew up in the parsonage of the Baptist church.” His wife then went on to describe some of the unique perils and pitfalls of being a pastor’s kid.” It was a fun evening and the fact that the conversation had drifted from education to church life had nothing to do with it – if you know what I mean.
Now the reason I bring this up is because there is no better example of our gospel story today than the real life adventures of another pastor’s kid – one John Wesley, in fact. John’s father, Samuel Wesley, was a clergyman for the Church of England, as was his father before him. So yes, you could say that John Wesley was the classic pastor’s kid. He was raised in the rectory of the Epworth Church and had studied scripture and church polity since he was able to read. He was later educated at Christ Church, Oxford and ordained as an Anglican priest soon afterward. High praise for a pastor’s kid. But despite his education and gift for public speaking, John Wesley had one more valuable lesson to learn and it was through the German group of believers called Moravians that Wesley learned to overcome the fears of this world that keep us from the Kingdom of God. So, let me read from Wesley’s journal of an event that happened on a ship bound for America because it is here that the influence of the Moravian movement (often called the Germans) had a lasting influence on the spirit of John Wesley. He writes:
“At seven I went to the Germans. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behaviour. Of their humility they had given a continual proof, by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired, and would receive no pay, saying, “it was good for their proud hearts,” and “their loving Saviour had done more for them.”
And every day had given them occasion of showing a meekness which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck, or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. There was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the Spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger, and revenge. In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.
A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Was you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.”
From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbours, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen.”
Wesley kept in touch with the Moravians for some time, particularly with a man named Peter Boehler. I believe it was their calmness in the face of calamity; their total absence of fear and their absolute trust in the grace of God that later led John & Charles Wesley both toward a life changing spiritual awakening. The rest is, as they say, history.
So what about our gospel message from today? Is it the same thing as Wesley’s close call in that terrible storm? Well, that depends how we read it. If we read it simply as a retelling of something that happened, then this story is confusing at best.
The opening verse says it all (vs 35) On that day, when evening had come, he told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took him along since he was in the boat. See what I mean? It’s common knowledge, even today, that once the sun starts going down you’d best not be venturing out onto the Sea of Galilee. Due to the lay of the land and the thermal winds that whip up, this peaceful lake turns into a nightmare in the evening. Yet there they were. Add to that the fact that once the waves were about to drown them all, Jesus was sleeping in the bow. It’s no wonder the disciples woke him up saying, “Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Don’t you care?
If, on the other hand, if we read this as a parable, then it takes on a whole new meaning. To me, this illustration describes my faith journey to a T. Through family and friends, I’m invited to join into a community of faith; to get in the boat. It’s an invitation that appeals to me. It’s a chance to find purpose and meaning in a life that’s been pretty self-serving up to this point. In this boat, I believe, is a community of like-minded people who share the same crazy notion that maybe – just maybe – we might help to make God’s Kingdom happen. It’s fellowship, it’s community, and it brings joy to my heart. But sooner or later, a storm whips up. Congregations find themselves divided over the pastor, over finances, over polity, over politics; over any number of things. And when this happens, there’s tension and where there is tension, there is fear. But it doesn’t need be that way.
Today’s reading from the 9th Psalm begins by telling us, 9 All who are oppressed may come to him. He is a refuge for them in their times of trouble. 10 All those who know your mercy, Lord, will count on you for help. For you have never yet forsaken those who trust in you. Did the writer of these words mean to just make us feel better about the situation? Was he trying to buck us up? Or was he speaking from the heart; from experience. “For the Lord has never forsaken those who trust in him.” To trust in the Lord when times are good; now that’s easy. But to trust absolutely in God’s grace when we’re about to get washed overboard; that’s when our faith becomes real. We’re all pastor’s kids, in a way. We’re held to a higher standard than most. A lot more is expected of us than of the other kids. It keeps us honest; it keeps us humble. And no matter what kind of a storm we find ourselves in the middle of, we are blessed by God’s grace. It is for real and it is forever.
Amen & Shalom