September 5th, 2006


Mercenary priests

Judges 17 and 18 sound familiar, even if the context has changed. It's bizarre: Micah confesses to his mother that he's taken a huge amount of silver from her; upon its return, she has part of it made into an idol for him to place with his other household gods. When a sojourning Levite passes through, Micah makes him an offer he doesn't refuse—the price is right, and he is ordained as Micah's personal priest. Time passes, and when an invading party makes the priest a counter-offer to become the priest for their clan, he goes along with the winds of fortune, little more than an appendage of the idol itself (which they also steal). Micah even tries to put up a fight, but when he realizes he's outnumbered, he can do little else but hang his head.

barlow_girl and I went to Compline at St. Mark's Cathedral this Sunday, and I was nearly overwhelmed with sadness for it all. A huge cathedral with vast resources, beautiful voices singing beautiful music—but who believed, and what did they believe? Regrettably, I believe the answers were "too few" and "too little." Sure, there was enough of an appearance of the ancient mixed with informality, meditation, and candles to appeal to postmodern sensibilities of spirituality. But in the end, it felt more like a dressed-up equivalent of a tanning bed than the rays of a sunny day—a no-strings fix of spiritualized beauty, disconnected from the True Source.

In any time, a steady paycheck or the praise of men can all too easily take the place of calling. How many serve the small gods of our age: family, patriotism, tolerance, sexuality, money, security, success? How many minister to people who want experiences and outcomes more than the living God? How many are still considered priests in some form or fashion? And what are we missing as long as we settle for this? What is the world being denied?