By Ajung Sojwal
After being ordained a priest in the Episcopal church for ten years now, I am just beginning to understand this extraordinary call from Jesus. It has taken a crisis to bring about the crushing of my ego to make room for the real heart of a priest and a prophet from God. Why prophet? Because, what I have experienced of God’s tenacious will to engage in the transformation of the human soul (mine in this case) is the prophetic message that I, as a priest, must proclaim to all. As priest, it is not merely about following Jesus, it is even more about becoming the presence of Jesus to myself and to others. How can I be His presence unless I allow myself to be broken and changed by his unfathomable love?
As priest, it is easy to get caught up in what I must do to grow the church, to expand the vision, to preach a powerful sermon and engage as many people as possible in “ministry.” What is ministry after all? I am having to revisit that question as I find myself faced with this crisis that requires me to trust in this Jesus whose words are as baffling as he is elusive. I keep looking for visions of a Jesus that are more tangible. I dig through scripture hoping to be stumped by some undiscovered level of depth that would instantaneously release a power to undo our crisis, any crisis for that matter. But I am left, strangely, with an even greater ache in the simplicity of His call, “follow me.”
I have entertained for far too long this notion that I am called to serve Christ. What arrogance to imagine that I could serve this God who is all sufficient and in whom is all of life? I can only follow and serve with Christ as He pours himself out in every human crisis to every suffering soul. This is what He has called me to, to be shattered as He is, at the vulnerability of us who cannot dodge suffering and still, be able, to find life amongst the wreckage. As priest, how did I dare stand witness to the resurrection without constantly touching the scars of deep wounds on Christ’s body, my own body.
I am reminded that Peter was told by Jesus to feed His sheep only after the resurrection. Like Peter, I too have betrayed Jesus by crafting what I thought to be safe answers to peoples’ deep questions. I chose to linger in the shadows of anger and fear in the face of discrimination and human approval. I chose to be reasonable about the empty tomb. And, I chose to be secure within the walls of human expectations for God’s church. What Peter was asked to offer as feed for the sheep was his own forgiven life; the witness of a life cupping God’s grace and the reckless trust of a God who knew he would fall again, yet, still asked to feed.
I hope to share subsequently, how my journey with Jesus through my current crisis can unpack what it means to feed the sheep while wounded but forgiven. I choose to feel the hunger of our souls, with the one calls himself the Bread of Life.