Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pastoral ministry and the consolation of God

I have recently completed a course on the spiritual disciplines called Foundations for a Spiritual Life. Among the various works we had to read was also Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, which I enjoyed very much. Especially captivating for me was Peterson's notion of the pastorate as the art of curing souls, the care of souls, the cura animarum.

For Peterson, this is the principal work of the pastor. The care of the souls is the everyday pastoral life . . . concerned with developing a life of prayer among the the people. This is the work to which the gathering on Sunday is oriented: Leading worship, preaching the gospel, and teaching Scripture on Sundays would develop in the next six days into representing the life of Christ in the human traffic of everyday (1993, 58).

This notion of the cure of souls is somewhat related to what had first attracted me to ministry. I saw that I benefited much from my study of the bible, from prayer, from my growing understanding of the things of God, and I wanted to share them with others. They helped me in such a way, and I wanted to see other persons helped in their day-to-day lives by the same.

The apostle Paul talks a little bit about this in his second letter to the Corinthians. Recalling his many experiences of persecution and travail, he writes:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God (2 Cor 1.3-4).

The apostle and his team receive consolation from God in the midst of all their troubles and misfortunes, and this consolation they share with others. Their hearts may despair of life itself (v. 8), but they receive a cure for their troubled souls from God; this cure they subsequently pass on to others, to strengthen them in the battle being waged. This is the cure of souls! This is pastoral ministry as I understand it and as I wish to practice it.