we often have this idea of being pastoral as being weak, wet and woolly.
Interestingly people often seem to pride themselves on being rude and obnoxious and try to justify their behaviour by saying “I’m not pastoral, I’m prophetic/evangelistic/apostolic”…
Yet I think this show not only a misunderstanding of the role of the prophet, evangelist and apostle, but also an acute misunderstanding of the role of the pastor.
The word Pastor or Shepherd are often inter-changeable.
It is easy to think of the Shepherd as gently nurturing sheep on some idyllic hillside somewhere nice and peaceful. Yet the reality is more of a challenge, sheep are easy prey, the shepherd has to fight of robbers, wolves, lions and bears.
There is nothing wimpy about the shepherds in Biblical times, it was a tough and often bloody role, killing of wolves and scaring away predatory beasts.
It is a costly role. Jesus himself said “the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”. Many of us in Pastoral ministry may not have been killed but we certainly have had to cope with some incredible spitefulness.
Yet sheep are not particularly grateful, in fact sheep need saving from themselves most of the time, often getting themselves lost, stuck on hillsides and sometimes -especially the rams- they can be violent towards the shepherds too.
There is a picture of Jonny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow running from a group of wild people armed with spears and the caption says “Be a Pastor they said, it’ll be fun they said”.
The shepherd has to preserve the sheep, protecting them from the dangers outside and the dangers inside. A thankless task. A task that requires us to be pro-active. A task that calls for courage and bravery.
So, as we re-think this role of Pastor as not being weak and wishy washy, but a person of action, going where angels fear to tread, “someone fighting for you and for your spiritual growth”.
In fact much of the imagery around the Christian life is that of battle and warfare.
Even images such as God shielding us under the shadow of his wing, are actually more violent than we like to think, just think of how protective of her young a swan or wild goose is? Yes, it’s an image of shelter, but it is also an image of protection against all that can wage against us.
I want to think for a second about our emotions, so often we are so British that we think of the only emotions that are healthy in the Christian life is a serene gentleness.
Yet I would suggest that one of the most pastoral acts we see Jesus doing is throwing the tax collectors and the money changers out of the temple, he’s angry.
I5 is right to be angry at injustice, at wrong behaviour within the Christian family. Scripture doesn’t prohibit anger but rather it says “in your anger do not sin”.
It is not fashionable to talk any more about the wrath of God, but I don’t believe that God is impassive and emotionless about the horrors that are carried out in his world, and sometimes in his Church. God’s anger is righteous, but it is still anger none the less.
And lastly let’s think about “angry prayers” -the Psalms is full of them (and many written by a shepherd). It is right and proper to be honest with God about how we are feeling, and if we feel angry at something it is good to tell him.
Often in the west, especially in the Anglican church, our prayers can be a bit placid and bland, but perhaps we can pray with a passion knowing that God loves us and wants to hear our hearts.
In fact if we are angry because of our zeal and fire for the things of God.
Our prayers too can be warfare, can be violent -scripture uses the image of destruction- tearing down strong-holds, standing firm in the full armour of God… Yet the opposition too sounds fierce and scary “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”.
Our prayers are powerful and offensive to the “powers and principalities of this world”, as an old adage goes “Satan scoffs at our plans, laughs at our schemes but trembles when we pray”.
Martin Luther talks about grasping our hands in prayer as an act of warfare on all that is evil or destructive. In the book of Zechariah, we hear of the Devil being rebuked “the Lord says NO to you Satan”.
Prayer is a defiant action.
The Angry Pastor prays for brothels to close and people to be set free, for drug dealers to cease trading, for violence to cease, for gossip to stop, for relationships to be healthy and for the Kingdom to advance.
The prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much.
Scripture warms us we have not because we ask not, so let’s take the ground and ask for more and more of the Kingdom to become here on earth as the gospel is proclaimed and lives are transformed.
The angry pastor does battle on her knees, fighting in the heavenly realm, fighting for less of sin, the world and the devil to have influence and control over those whom we love and serve.
So, let’s reclaim biblical pastoring to look like that of Christ the good shepherd, bold and brave, fighting for us, our defender -seeking our welfare, but prepared to even save us from ourselves. The person of courage and boldness, but motivated by love -love for the person and love for the Shepherd King and his Kingdom.