From Chapter 1 of The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen.
As a parable of Jesus Christ I deliver something to the parishioner that I am not, And in the process I deliver the parishioner in to the hands of God.
Am I so desperate for identity that I’ve resorted to calling myself Jesus? No. I’m just a hook with some feathers and threads on it. I observe that when I encounter people along the way, they don’t experience me so much as they experience God. How do I account for this? I am a parable of Jesus.
Every Christian’s life is meant to be a parable of Jesus. But pastors are particularly suited to this, because so much of our lives are spent doing what Jesus did in his life. An adequate definition of pastoral ministry emphasizes following Jesus as the act of ministry, and particularly following Jesus on the way of the cross.
Jesus’ ministry is so simple that most pastors consider it naïve. Word. Prayer. Friendship. Sacrament. Leadership. That’s all.
Jesus’ life has a general narrative direction. We call this general direction the Way of the Cross. Jesus understood from the beginning that his was a life of sacrifice. His life flowed toward the cross at all times. He never climbed any first-century ladders of success. The devil showed him plenty. The people begged him to climb them. Jesus rejected ladders and consistently chose the downward road of sacrifice…
The power to do pastoral ministry and its central focus, that which gives every aspect of meaning, lies specifically in the everyday, concrete following of Jesus, led by him on the Way of the Cross. That is how we become parables of Jesus and deliver him to the people we meet. Paul recognized this when he told the Corinthians: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor 4:10-11).
Don’t think that following Jesus is hard. The pastoral ministry is much, much harder for those who do not deny themselves and pick up their cross. Jesus’ words apply to us when he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).
Here’s what the pastoral ministry is for me: Every day, as I go about my tasks as a pastor, I am a follower of Jesus. I am therefore a parable of him to those I encounter. The parable of Jesus works the power and presence of Jesus in our lives.
I am no more Jesus than a hook with feathers and threads is a mayfly. As I follow Jesus throughout my day, I fish for people for God. Ultimately what I am is the bait.