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God’s Foolish Ones

  • rkurrasch 

People of faith often wonder what it really means—how actually—to live faithfully in a world where (I’m thinking of the words and ways of Jesus here) faithful living is easily dismissed as impractical, unworkable, and unwanted. An indifferent world will usually tolerate religious practice, within bounds, a hostile world takes things a step further.

Still, those who acknowledge a faith must wrestle with the implications of living faithfully, and to that end I have always appreciated the poetic imagery of Dr. Peggy Way.

For many years, Dr. Way taught pastoral theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School where she introduced the wider church to the idea of “pastoral persons,” by which she meant not pastors as a profession specifically but rather Christians generally. It turns out that pastoral persons are ordinary, everyday people who affirm the Lordship of Jesus.

What do pastoral persons do? For starters, they are Stewards of Narration, that is to say, storytellers who listen to the stories of others and find ways for the Story to intersect with our stories.

As Existence Clarifiers, pastoral persons see the significance of ordinary life and place high valuation on ordinary people whose lives carry depths of meaning.

We are Sculptors who capture a moment of time and Hosts and Hostesses who call forth the hospitable community.

And my favorite pictures us as Choreographers of the Human Dance, seeking to help people learn how to stay together over time.

(One wonders what would happen if we called Choreography of the Human Dance a Life Skill and said that before you could graduate from high school, buy your first gun, or get married, you had to show evidence of having learned to choreograph the human dance.)

As if to put it all together, Peggy Way cites the words of a Jesuit priest, Peter Byrne. Over the years, these words have served as a mission statement for me:

We are simply asked to make gentle our bruised world; to tame its savageness; to be compassionate of all, including ourselves; then, in the time left over from these ministries of justice and of care, to repeat the Ancient Tale and go the way of God’s Foolish Ones.

Pastoral persons, custodians of an Ancient Tale who go the way of God’s Foolish Ones … no longer need we wonder about what it means for a people of faith to live faithfully!