I wonder what this passage might teach us about how we do pastoral care (h/t A commenter named jfreeham at the Theolog).
“…after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:6, 17-21
Read Willimon’s words from his book, Pastor (h/t relevintage):
The pastor is [often] reduced to the level of the soother of anxieties brought on by the dilemmas of affluence, rather than the caller of persons to salvation. My colleague Stanley Hauerwas has accused the contemporary pastor of being little more than “a quivering mass of availability [emphasis mine].” Practicing what I call “promiscuous ministry”- ministry with no internal, critical judgment about what care is worth giving- we become victims of a culture of insatiable need. We live in a capitalist, consumptive culture where there is no purpose to our society other than “meeting our needs.” The culture gives us the maximum amount of room and encouragement to “meet our needs” without appearing to pass judgment on which needs are worth meeting… In this vast supermarket of desire, we pastors must do more than simply “meet people’s needs.” The church is also about giving people the critical means of assessing which needs give our lives meaning, about giving us needs we would not have had if we had not met Jesus.
Are you a pastoral vending machine or are you practicing the holy art of saying no? Is there middle ground somewhere in between? What are we called to be? Can pastors abuse this theological approach to pastoral care in order to feed their own laziness? And to ask a question that is becoming increasingly popular, how would life as a Bishop change the way Willimon thinks about this? What do you think?