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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?


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."

How can you tell that? What were your clues?
A) I'm judgmental
2) That congregation is currently very adamant about the celebration of alternative sexual orientations (which are also, coincidentally, prevalent in the Compline Choir) as part of God's intention for human sexuality. While I disagree, it presses the larger issue of God's authority in and through Scripture forward. God's grace and His Kingdom rests on His authority, so the recognition of that authority is a deal-maker or breaker for me.
Given the facts in (2), I would be judgmental, too.
Even more sadly, perhaps, is that this can happen in any denomination, not just Catholics. I've seen it in many Churches of Christ through the years. That's partly why I left the denomination; they (however unintentionally) fostered an attitude of following the rules instead of living for Christ.
Yes, I wasn't even thinking of the Roman Catholic Church (the cathedral I went to was Episcopalian). By "priest," I'm thinking of anyone who ministers-- primarily Christians, because I think those who bear His name have a responsibility to know and do better.

High Church.

I spent two accidental weeks in Ware, Herts. back in 1987. An Anglican church called Christ Church took me in. I was a stranger and these Spirit-filled C. of E. people took me in and taught me stuff. I was far more part of the community there than I am anywhere here in my ugly, super-informal, gosh-aw shucks-dude, God-is-awesome church here. It's weird about formality. It all depends on what you bring through the threshold, it seems.

Ministry as career can be hard to escape. Pleasing people to get the money is quite a temptation. But what do I know?
Older sons, all of us.

and I still am amazed at Judges, even if it is similar to now.
It might be worth noting that the Compline performance started as a choir practice event--basically, a few men from the men's choir started getting together on Sunday nights to sing the office. More and more people started showing up, and now it's termed a "service", but it was never really meant to be anything official.
I'd like to be a non-mercenary priest someday. But it's turning into one of those Jacob-having-to-wait-yet-another-seven-years things. Oh well, Moses didn't make his big debut until he was 80, right...?