Like Father, Like SonFr. Barnabas Powell
Your theology, whether you know it or not, ALWAYS shows up in your choices, your behaviors, and even your organizational structures. Hey, tell me what your pastor wears on Sunday morning and I can tell you what your theology really is.
It’s because what we truly believe isn’t what we necessarily say, but is best known by how we act and what we value. This is the truest way to determine what you truly believe. Because what you truly believe, regardless of what your mouth says, is always discovered in how you act.
That’s the reason why the notion of the pastor as either primarily “speaker” or “preacher” or even “pastor” reveals what you believe about the whole notion of the Church. What is the Church to you? Is it primarily a place where you are made to “feel good” about yourself? Or maybe it’s a place where you are made to “feel bad” about yourself. Maybe “Church” is a place where you “learn” how to be a “good person.” Or maybe “Church” is a place where you “learn the principles” of how to be a Christian. Do you see the pattern here where “you” are the center of attention?
This is why what you call your religious leader is so very important. It’s important because what you call your religious leader reveals what you believe the central purpose of the Church is really all about. And that is a very important piece of information, because that central reason will shape everything you do and understand about the Church and it’s mission.
In today’s Epistle Lesson St. Paul give us an insight into the central reason and purpose of his theology concerning the question “What is the Church?”
Look at 1 Corinthians 4:9-16. Here St. Paul talks about the ministry of the Apostles in establishing the foundation of the early Church. He really paints a picture of a group of men who don’t see themselves as primarily CEO’s of a religious company, or as men whose primary job is to “educate” about religious “principles” but men whose lives are spent living out as example the role of “father” in a family.
Here is the central passage in giving us a powerful revelation into the central purpose for the Church in St. Paul’s theology: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” 1 Corinthians 4:10-16
St. Paul sees himself not as simply a “teacher” or even a “pastor” or “leader,” but as a “father” in a family given the responsibility to “raise” spiritual “children” to spiritual maturity. So, “Church” for St. Paul is much more than a once-a-week place where I learn information about God, but a whole lifestyle where I become part of a family that is focused on the purposeful directing and shaping of my life as a mature believer. AND, at the helm of this “family” is a “father” who is so self-forgetful that he is willing to be a worthy example to all his “children.”
Today, on this Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles of our Lord Jesus, let us examine our attitudes and true beliefs about the purpose of the Church in our lives. Are we willing children of the Church, being shaped by the “fathers” of the Church into imitators of the saints? Are we teachable as children looking up to their fathers? Are our “fathers” behaving like “fathers?” Are we praying for our “fathers” in Christ so that they are spiritually supported to do the very hard work of their calling? What you believe is the central purpose of the Church will always show up in your values, priorities, and actions. And this is such a vital reality that your spiritual maturity is at stake in your choices. So, perhaps it’s time to listen to St. Paul and be imitators of him. You are going to be a “chip off the old block.” Let’s make sure it’s the right “block!”
After all, like father, like son.