At the command of the Lord a certain member of a company of prophets said to another, "Strike me!" But the man refused to strike him. Then he said to him, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, as soon as you have left me, a lion will kill you." And when he had left him, a lion met him and killed him. - 1 Kings 20:35-36
Hopefully, no one has asked your pastor for a punch upside the head lately. Yet, chances are that "the command of the Lord" comes to your pastor in some unexpected ways. It's not outside the realm of possibility that your pastor has been asked to facilitate a finance meeting, pray with someone who is dying, bless something that is being born, break bread, contact the insurance company, teach one class about first century Palestine and another about twenty-first century sexual ethics, argue with the copier repairman, sit on a chair by a hospital bed, sit on the floor with a toddler, proofread the newsletter, research employment law, exorcise a demon, organize a rally, shovel a walk, and prepare to present an exactly fourteen minute sermon that is scholarly, faithful, engaging, relevant, biblical, hopeful, prophetic, pastoral and funny. And that's just this week.
If your pastor balks at any one of these requests, it may be tempting to curse them, to send them headlong into the jaws and claws of, if not literal lions, then at least of disapproval or censure. Next time you face that temptation, remember this. Your pastor must discern which of the myriad requests they field each day are truly the command of the Lord and which are the clamoring of other voices. Remember this. Just as you cannot always discern what is truly the command of the Lord and which is just a slap in the face, neither can your pastor. Remember this. Just like you, your pastor is listening, trying to understand, trying to obey.
Lord, your commands come to us in some pretty weird ways sometimes. Helps us to discern when that is really You, still speaking. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.