People tend to expect a certain amount of holiness from their pastors. It’s not quite like it was a generation ago, but still there are some general guidelines for behavior. Pastors are supposed to say grace (but not too long of grace) before a meal. Pastors are not supposed to say %#@^# when they stub their toes, but something more like, “Thank you God for this reminder of my mortality.” And when you ask pastors what they want for Christmas, the answer is not supposed to be a crock pot.
I’ve been working on a more holy response, but in reality I want a really big crock pot. I’ve tried saying things like “world peace” or “an end to hunger” but those answers ring a bit insincere and that bugs me big time.
Why can’t I say, “I want world peace” without thinking about the bumper sticker, “whirled peas?”
Why doesn’t “world peace” feel as great of a desire as a crock pot? I don’t think I have a good answer. I do go to a lot of potlucks so a crock pot feels a bit more like a pressing need than world peace. But, if I am truly honest with myself, then I have to admit that my way of life is too deeply bound to a world divided.
I know enough about the ways of the world to recognize that world peace does not come by magical fairy dust. World peace, God’s shalom, has to do with the forgiveness of debts, a just reward for work, healing of brokenness and sharing the abundance that we are given. That kind of shalom does not come without sacrifice, vulnerability and a deep examination of our values.
If I am going to take the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” seriously, then I need to figure out what is an obstacle to truly desiring God’s kingdom. If I am going to read the angels proclamation to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth shalom and good will to all” then I need to open my eyes to who is missing in my good will. If I am ever going to answer, “I want world peace for Christmas” and not have it ring like a sappy song, then I need God’s grace to break open my heart so I do long to be a part of that peace.
That’s where it comes back to the crock pot. It just seems so much more attainable. For $39.99 and five minutes my wish can be completed. World peace does not ever feel attainable without some kind of magic, so it drifts down the list of priorities. Then, I turn on the news. The brokenness and sorrow of the world is massive. I want excuses to tune it out, but one of the great symbols through Advent is the candle — the power of light to transform darkness. I cannot vanquish evil in the world, but there are lots of things that I can do to start living in God’s shalom right now. Feeding people is a good example. And it does just so happen that I need a crock pot for that.
• Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.