Everyone thinks clergy have some secret hotline to God. How does a retiring one increase a state that is already deemed to be “perfect?” Let’s lay that myth to rest.
To borrow from D T Niles’ aphorism, I have always seen ministry as “one poor beggar sharing with another where one can find an abundance to eat.”
Having said that, I am careful not to fall into the Western trap of striving to find favour with God, as if I have to earn points for good behaviour. The text from Luke 2:52 suggests a journey of awareness into the favour that God already bestows, as indicated in the eastern orthodox emphasis on “theosis” referred to in my previous post. Growth of awareness in itself stimulates the cultivation of the hidden fruits of divinity emanating from the image of God in our being, and fully revealed in the God-human, Jesus the Christ. When Jesus was baptised by his cousin John, the voice he hears, “This is my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased,” is available to be heard by us all.
While western consciousness dwells on humanity’s sin and fallen-ness, though real and devastating and evoking rightful humility, neglect of the perspective of theosis warps our understanding of being in favour with God. There are, however, helpful streams of Western Christian spirituality that, seen through the lens of theosis, build unspoiled awareness of God’s favour (sometimes described as grace – the benevolent disposition of God towards God’s creation – including us!)
The holiness tradition of the revivalists, the contemplative practices of the monastics, the charismatic expressions of the renewalists, the sacramental and liturgical movements – all have contributions to awakening and deepening awareness of God’s favour.
In ministry, it has been my task to respond to and foster all – as every expression can be found even in one small church community. I don’t see this journey coming to completion, even past full-blown retirement.