Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reclaiming the Word 'Parson' for the Clergy

a member of the clergy, especially a Protestant minister;pastor; rector.
the holder or incumbent of a parochial benefice, especially an Anglican.

1200–50; Middle English persone  < Medieval Latin persōna  parishpriest, Latin:  personage. See person

A Pastor is the Deputy of Christ for the reducing of Man to the Obedience of God. This definition is evident, and containes the direct steps of Pastorall Duty and Auctority. For first, Man fell from God by disobedience. Secondly, Christ is the glorious instrument of God for the revoking of Man. Thirdly, Christ being not to continue on earth, but after hee had fulfilled the work of Reconciliation, to be received up into heaven, he constituted Deputies in his place, and these are Priests. And therefore St. Paul in the beginning of his Epistles, professeth this: and in the first [v.24] to the Colossians plainly avoucheth, that he fils up that which is behinde of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh, for his Bodie's sake, which is the Church. Wherein is contained the complete definition of a Minister. Out of this Chartre of the Priesthood may be plainly gathered both the Dignity thereof, and the Duty: The Dignity, in that a Priest may do that which Christ did, and by his auctority, and as his Vicegerent. The Duty, in that a Priest is to do that which Christ did, and after his manner, both for Doctrine and Life. ~George Herbert, A PRIEST TO THE TEMPLE OR, THE COUNTRY PARSON HIS CHARACTER, &c.

If we want to define something we use words. There are a variety of words we use to define ministers of the Gospel. Minister, pastor, elder, priest, etc. One word that is very seldom used today is parson. At its root parson means person, nothing more. So often clergy are caught up in being something they are  not such as fund raiser, administrator, counselor, social worker, best friend to name a few. But deep down clergy are people. Deep down all of us are people. And not so deep down the fallenness of who we are is quite evident. We are sinners. So as far as being a person is concerned, we all fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)

Now a pastor, rector, or vicar is a leader of a congregation. But where are they leading? And how? The answer to this question is found in Scripture.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:21-29)

In this passage we can see the nature of man ( hostile in mind doing evil deeds), what Christ has done (reconciled us by his death) and why (presenting us blameless before God). The purpose of the minister of the Gospel is to proclaim Jesus 'warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.' All this by the grace of God. Clergy shepherd (pastors) people to Jesus. But to maintain proper health, clergy should never forget that we are persons. By shepherding others we should be mindful of ourselves as fallen creatures in need of Christ's redeeming. We need to understand the food that must be our spiritual daily bread. We need to understand that not everyone goes to heaven. And we need to understand that works do not make us better people but only the Holy Spirit working in us transforming us so that we can do the will of God. (Philippans 2:13) All of this is by our service to the Gospel that saves the wretched sinner. The life of the parson is to look upon the cross daily, reading the Bible daily, and leading the flock to green pastures and still waters so that they may be the person that Jesus is molding for the sake of the Kingdom. After all, Jesus is the ultimate person. He will do the work in the parishioner for the elect in God. But to know what that fruit looks like, we have to know what Jesus is doing in us. (Luke 6:39-49)