who the hell am i?

16 Sep

Just started some daily readings – nice bite sized chapters – in Lawrence Kushner’s latest book, I’m God Im_God_Youre_Not_by_Rabbi_Lawrence_Kushner.JPGYou’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego.

I continue to be amazed at how beautifully a Jewish rabbi tracks with the Jesus I know – just as I am amazed at how Christian pastors who claim to know Jesus, don’t. But then, Jesus is Jewish. In my book, only Eugene Peterson hits it so effectively on the head as Kushner does in his observations, stories and quips on this business of pastoring/rabbi-ing (imam-ing?) in a congregation.

Fellow pastors (and rabbis) – or anyone either currently employed in or contemplating the pursuit of occupational life in an organized (or disorganized) religious context – take and read.

Expect occasional Kushner stories and snippets here.

Love this one.

Thought of it yesterday while sitting with a mom, her four kids dancing around her, diagnosed as terminal and well past her “expiration date”…

True story of my first official task as the rabbi of my own congregation. It was over forty years ago and took me to a hospital.

We had just moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Marlborough, Massachusetts. It must have been late July. I dutifully called the president to inofrm him of our arrival. He welcomed me and, in the course of our conversation, said that he had heard through the grapevine that a member of the congregation was in Mass General Hospital. She was a young mother whom he heard was terminally ill. So I put on my rabbi suit (my only suit), drove into Boston, found MGH, and walked into the room. One of Boston’s great physicians was just concluding a counseling session with her. He motioned kindly for me to take a chair and listen in.

The woman said, “But how can I be a mother? I can’t even get out of bed anymore?”

But, to my astonishment, he only scolded her. “Is that what you have to do to be a mother?” he asked. “Is a mother just cooking and chauffeuring and playing?”

“No, I guess not,” she whispered. “A mother is supposed to love and teach.”

“So, nu*?” he replied. “Be a mother. Maybe you want to teach them about faith and about courage. Maybe you have an opportunity to love and to teach few mothers will ever understand.”

She wept. He wept. I wept.

“Oh, thank you, doctor,” she said.

He kissed her, nodded to me, and left.

I sat motionless, astonished, dumbfounded in the corner.

Startled, she turned to me and said, “Who the hell are you?”

The mark of a true rabbi/pastor? It’s to stand with Moses before the sacred moments of life with those experiencing them, and to say, “Who the hell am I?”

It’s the ones who think they know we must avoid.

*”nu” is a Yiddish word equivalent to English words like “so?” or “well?,” and can be used all by itself to mean “What’s new?”


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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Books, Pastoring


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