I seem to be getting behind with this blog, but will try to make this up over the next couple of days!
Oddly enough one reason for tardiness comes from the fact last week was not a preaching week. Now you might think a non-preaching week would be quieter, but it’s during those weeks I find myself eventually catching up with all the pastoral work I’ve been meaning to do for ages.
One of the tensions any minister faces is between preaching and pastoring, but because you have to preach on a certain date, it’s normally the preaching that wins out. Of course, I will visit when there is an emergency, but it’s the general, day-to-day pastoring I am talking about, that usually doesn’t have a deadline, but reaps long-term benefits in terms of relationships built up and communication strengthened.
So a non-preaching week is a time to rebalance priorities and to spend time with people. But which people and when? One of the things about ministry is that there always many good things you could be doing, and it’s up to you decide. You don’t have a manager setting you targets (at least, not yet) or scheduling you a list of clients to visit. You have to choose where to spend the time and the energy yourself, and that freedom is both a great joy and a responsibility.
Perhaps here we gain an insight into another reason why Jesus spent forty days in the desert. Yes, He was tempted by Satan so as to test whether He remained faithful to His Father’s will. But I am sure part of His time there was also spent thinking and praying about His future direction. There were so many places to visit, so many people to meet, so much need to address. Jesus needed to be clear which of the many possibilities were His Father’s priorities.
And how did He find out? Well, I for one don’t feel I can speculate about the exact nature of Jesus’ relationship with His Father. But it’s striking that after the temptations the prophet Isaiah provided both the content for His teaching (Luke 4:18-19) and the context for His teaching (Matt 4:15-16). And if Jesus relied so heavily upon Scripture to plan and to prioritise, then I can see there’s a lesson here not just for a vicar juggling roles, but for anyone who’s seeking to find out how to decide what is best. Relating this to the nitty-gritty of parish life is not always easy, but at least it gives me a framework when planning out my week.