[journals] 6/9/16 Dinner with the Pastor


[journals] 6/9/16 Dinner with the Pastor

My mother asked us to be home by 5pm today. Usually we stay in the office until 5pm, and by the time we have locked up and made our way down the 55 and 73 highway, it is already close to six. 

So it was with a bit of glee that we departed from the office an hour early today. Mother’s requests have never been more eagerly met.

The occasion was a visit to our home by one of the local pastors. He is in charge of watching over all the small groups in the area. My mother had ordered Mediterranean food and so we happily broke bread together and sipped on sparkling cranberry juice. I’ve always had mixed feelings when it came to pastors. I feel like the phrase, “everything is a nail to the man with a hammer” is extremely relevant to them. They see everything as Good and Evil. And sometimes this simple binary veils complexities that we are capable of understanding. I once asked a pastor how he felt about race in America and after some heeing and hawing he said triumphantly with a stern face, “it is written, give onto caesar what is caesars.” I think I scoffed out loud. Lazy thinking is infuriating. The pastor lacked the courage to think about these things. It was better to just deploy a Biblical citation and not think of it all. Another Pastor keeps praying that the Spirit of Poverty will be cast out of Latin America. Never mind decades of exploitive policies engineered and enforced by American legislators, folks that are elected by us every four years. But despite these kinds of shortcomings, they still do so much for people.

I remember when I first came upon the statistic that 90% of Korean Americans identified as Christians- in contrast with less than 50% of Koreans living in Korea identifying as such. I’ve always grown up attending our local Korean American church, shuffling through the busy cafeteria after service where hundreds of Korean families caught up on the week and socialized. But before seeing this statistic, it never really occurred to me how critical the church is to members of the Korean diaspora. It is where our community could share resources and provide support to families in new unfamiliar territory. It was where kids could find kids like them to play with. My appreciation for the Korean American church continues to grow. They are our communities’ jewels.

As we ate with this Pastor from Chicago, his wife and their young two year old kid, he shared with us his story of how he became a pastor. As he shared his story, it occurred to me how important pastors are to our communities. They are spiritual doctors. There is no one else in our communities that tend and watch over the spiritual state of our society. Just as physicians concern themselves full time with our physiology and various pathologies that afflict us, pastors and preachers concern themselves full time with our inner lives and the emotional turmoil that embroils us in day to day working life. It’s a beautiful calling indeed. Necessary and incredibly demanding. Who else will ask us about our deepest feelings and thoughts? Who else will discuss with us the anxiety that accompanies the denial of death? Who else will tackle the question of guilt and shame?

Perhaps the reader might immediately think of artists in response to this question. And this I agree with. Our best movie writers, our best authors, and our best musicians all in some sense of the phrase- function as spiritual doctors and teachers. I’ve never thought of pastors as artists. But I think they are in the fullest sense of the word.

Pastor Jordan looked a little tired. My mother brewed a pot of plum tea that is said to be soothing and perfect for winding down during the evening. As we sipped on this, he read a few passages from the book of Luke, encouraging us to always remember how thankful we must be for our circumstances, and how dangerously easy it is to begin to worship the self. We closed in prayer and then walked his family to the door. Thanking him profusely, we stood outside to see him off.

It was now about 8pm. I headed for the neighborhood pool to get a few laps in. The water glowed a turquoise blue against the backdrop of dark canyon rocks illuminated only in a few places by night time lanterns. I’m falling in love with swimming again these days. It’s so refreshing after a long day of work. I’m off to bed now as we must depart for work early tomorrow. I’m not exactly looking forward to a early morning drive up the 73 and 55, but at least it’s Friday.