The clergy were all in an uproar. The latest report from the Committee for Issuing Endless Reports had come out, and it was calling for changes in the way the clergy guild keeps shop.
It had all kinds of high sounding words in the beginning about “calling” and “God” and “mission,” but they’d long since learned to zip past those pages. You had to get back a ways to get the meat of things and see whose ox was being gored.
Of late, The Committee had made things hard on the clergy. It had started speaking in a foreign tongue not taught in seminary. Some of them would have been able to scratch up a few words of Hebrew or Greek, but this business-speak was another matter entirely.
After several minutes, they finally decided that these “leaders” the report kept speaking of were them. This was confusing. The great teacher had taught them to be servants and called them to be followers. He said to feed the sheep and spoke ominously of being tied about the waist and led where they did not want to go. But he had not spoken much of them — the clergy — being leaders. That, he had always more or less suggested, was his job.
But, nonetheless, they pressed on.
They liked the bit in there putting local pastors in their proper place again, a parasite on the order of elders. But they were none to pleased with what else they saw.
Missional appointments instead of appointment security? That was just dirty pool using the word “missional” like that. It stacked the deck, especially when defenders of the current system were painted in the corner of defending “security.” How many sermons had they all preached about danger and risk? Yes, those practioners of business-speak were dirty chaps. Tricky and too clever by half.
The crew was just getting up to high form when shabby Yohannan walked in. He was dirty as ever. That hair coat trapped dirt and dust something awful. More than once the assembled elders had suggested someone take old John, as they liked to call him, out back and beat him with a rug beater.
John strode into the room and coughed out a few curses. They’d heard it all before. The honey on his breath did not make his words any sweeter.
“Confess!” he implored them.
“Every first Sunday right before the Great Thanksgiving,” Bill said back with practiced timing.
They’d had this talk before.
And John shambled off to the highways and hills. What the crowds saw in him, the clergy could not understand. Go two minutes past an hour and their flock started checking their watches. But those people, John’s people, they’d walk barefoot through a desert for three days to find him. It was like they were thirsting for what he had to offer them. It was like they were driven by something dark and powerful inside.
About all that ever seemed to come out of their people was the odd ill-timed belch or fart during the pastoral prayer.
But John’s passing would not distract them too long. They had a report to discuss, dissect, and dispatch.
“Does it say anything in there about the pension?” one asked.
And they riffled the pages in search of an index.
“Curse the Committee,” said another. “They mean to vex us by leaving out a topical index.”
And they all said “Amen” to the brother’s pronouncement.