Saturday, February 04, 2006

What is in a name?



"What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet." --From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)


First of all, yes, I am a very bad blogger. I admit it! I don’t make time to blog! Ok, glad I got that off my chest! Now… for the real deal!

As many of you who, for whatever warped reason, may read this blog know, I am a Vicar. It seems that across the board Vicars inevitably get the great honor and blessing of “youth work.” This has been my lot. The couple who had been teaching the High School Bible study informed my supervisor that they no longer wanted to do it, so, as could be expected I was called upon with my youthful qualities to lead the youth.

I had no idea what to do with these kids. As are many seminarians, I was a dork in high school. I didn’t like being a kid and felt that this was an unfair type-casting. Just because I am under 30 does not mean I know the inner workings of the teenage mind.

I decided to try to get to know these kids, most of whom are boys, on a more personal level. I figured, what teenage boy doesn’t like video games? I like video games so maybe I could work something out.

It turns out that one of the boys was being left home alone for a while. He lives close to my wife and me so I decided I would invite him over to enjoy some of my wife’s amazing culinary skills and video games with me.

What this inane rambling is all coming down to is that the whole time this young, well-behaved man was in our home he always addressed me as “sir.” Everything was “Yes, sir,” “No, sir,” etc. At first I felt kinda weird about this. Yes, yes, I know I said earlier I didn’t like being a kid, and being called “sir’ by a junior in high school certainly does NOT make one feel like a kid. My first reaction was to tell this young man not to call me “sir,” to be on a more familiar basis with him.

But then, in one of my rare moments of cognizance, I thought about what it meant for him to call me “sir.” Being a good Lutheran I decided to explore “what does this mean.”

For this young man, I was a respected authority. I represented to him the strange and different “adult” class as well as the equally strange and different “clergy” class. For him to call me “sir” was and is a sign of respect. It is a sign that he looks up to me, a sign that he holds me as an authority in his life. The title “Vicar” or “Pastor” also hold with them these signs of respect.

Just two days ago, while ministering to an elderly woman and her family as she neared death, I again was honored with this same kind of respect. The woman’s granddaughter had been calling me by my name. She is not a Lutheran and therefore not familiar with the title of “Vicar” (but then again, many Lutherans are not even familiar with that title!) When we first met and the following couple of meetings after, she addressed my by my first name. I was not offended by it, I didn’t correct her. That would not have been a good ministering thing to do to this woman whose grandmother lay on her death bed. And besides, she was obviously older than me and maybe she thought I was too young to have such a title.
But after a few days of ministering to her grandmother and her family, she came to me and apologized for not calling me Vicar. I assured her it was not a problem and that I was not offended, but she then told me that she thought I deserved that title, she wanted to call me that.

Boy, was I knocked off my feet! Sure, I wear a clerical collar, sure I preach, sure I teach Bible studies, sure I was blessed to minister to her dying grandmother, but I never really thought I deserved to be called “Vicar.”

Then it really hit home. Titles are not a bad thing! They can be misused. They can be abused and elevated to a level that breaks the Second Commandment, but that doesn’t make the use of titles bad, it just makes the people who abuse them bad. This young man who calls me sir, this middle aged woman who wanted to call me Vicar were telling me something very important: they want to be lead, they want a shepherd, they want me to take the mantle of responsibility my age or my office dictate. It’s not wrong for them to call me by “sir” or by “vicar” but it would be wrong for me to look at them and tell them “I don’t want to lead you! I don’t want my self-perceptions to be changed! I don’t want to grow up!”

Jesus never told the people when they shouted out to Him "Rabbi!" or "Master!" "Hey, dudes, I just wanna keep it real, why don't you just call me JC?" Jesus took on the responsibility of what His name and titles meant, He lived up to "God Saves" and "Annointed of God," and "Immanuel" and I thank God that He does live up to those names and titles! I would never want to call Him anything other than Savior!

So, as I am half way through my Vicarage year, I have learned that this office that I seek to serve in has responsibility. It has respect and honor from those who desire a real pastor. To shirk those responsibilities, to reject that gift of respect would be selfish, rude and immature of me to do!

What I can do is pray that our good and gracious Father would make me worthy of such a calling, that He would work in and through me so that that respect, honor, and responsibility would be held as a beautiful gift from Him and a blessing for those who bestow it upon me.

Lord, help me to do this!
Amen.

2 comments:

Lori said...

Congratulations, you've gone over the "Vicarage hump" as I like to call it. My DH cleared it as did the others. You go into Vicarage a different person than you come out--and it is a very good thing. Enjoy the rest of your year, you will remember these people fondly for the rest of your life.

CPA said...

Great post! Have you read "Hammer of God"? It has a very similar passage in which an older pastor tells a new one why it's important to wear his clerical collar. I've posted an excerpt at my blog Three Hierarchies (go down the sidebar and you'll see an entry for Bo Giertz's "Hammer of God").