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  • Writer's pictureMark Bocanegra

How was the first month as 'Reverend'?

In one word? Embarrassing. Here are some of my favorite pastor/missionary bloopers: - After a long hard Sunday, as I tried to recite the benediction (which I have memorized pretty well), I couldn't finish it. I tried again. Failed again, leaving the congregation in a juicy awkward silence. - Promising a high schooler to buy him lunch during a Bible study, after ordering a hefty meal, I realized I forgot my wallet. I ask the 16yr old to pay for our lunch. - In a pretty serious sermon on suffering, thinking that I had said Christ’s Ascension in Japanese,my wife afterwards, in uncontrollable laughter, told me that I mispronounced it and said “Christ's Goofy Comedy Puppet show.” My Japanese vocabulary increased by one that day. - I left another high schooler waiting for me for 30 minutes at 7 am in front of the church building because I forgot to put it in my calendar. - When I started a Bible study, since i did not fully explain my intentions in a clear and culturally sensitive way, the non-Christian who was part of this group for two years chose to leave the group. (Thankfully, after some follow up by caring Christian sisters, he came back). There are many more other mistakes that I made personally and publically that are more serious. Also, there are many more that I am not aware of. Many have mentioned (both to me directly and indirectly) that I'm merely a fresh, anxious, youthful pastor who will calm down eventually and stop being so naive. I'm kind of amazed by the grace that people have shown me. However, I'm also shocked out how I'll equipped I am. Also, I was also discouraged by how people see me. But I'm thankful that being a pastor is no different from being a Christian. Despite my own sins and weaknesses, I must accept, receive, and rest upon on Christ alone, not only for my justification, but also for sanctification and glorification. There is one character in the Bible that I draw much comfort from. It is the faith of Aaron. By any standard, Aaron was a terrible High Priest. He was the guy, because he feared man more than God, who was somehow convinced that creating a Golden Calf was a good idea. I love the fact that he tries to blame the fire for it when Moses/God confronts him. He was the guy who didn't properly teach his sons how to handle the sacrifices, which led to the death of his two sons. It seems also he was guilty of handling the sacrifices improperly. He was also the guy who allowed his sister to lead a coup against Moses himself, which led not only her sister to be leprous for a couple of days, but as a result forced all of Israel to wait for her. Aaron, with Moses, sinned against God at the waters of Meribah, which barred any possibility of them entering into the Promised Land. I think what it was even more mind boggling is that he leaves every single incident unscathed. If I were Aaron, I would be riddled with guilt, fear, anxiety, and depression. But the most shocking thing is how he dies. When God finally leads him to his death, Aaron is surprisingly calm. Aaron gave his life with no resistance. No evidence of self-pity. No trace of desperation. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, he was silent and obedient. Why? Calvin gives us a wonderful explanation: “Moreover, it is worthy of observation that Aaron not only voluntarily cedes his dignity, but his life also. By this proof his faith was confirmed, for had he not been persuaded that an inheritance was laid up for him in heaven, he would not have so calmly migrated from the world. Since, however, he composes himself to die, just as if he were but lying down on his bed, it is altogether beyond a doubt that his mind was lifted up to the hope of a blessed resurrection, from whence arises a cheerful readiness to die. And it is probable that his faith was elevated and strengthened when he saw that the testimony of God’s grace, on which the safety of the people depended, was made to rest upon the person of his son.” Every instance of sin, he never was punished for his own sins. Not even once. The grace of God over his sinful life purified a faith that rested in the grace of God and not his own obedience. The constant grace of God over Aaron’s idolatry, transgressions and betrayals “elevated” Aaron’s faith to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s redemption–the resurrection of his own Son. As sinners, may we taste the grace of God, not look upon ourselves, but rest on the resurrection hope of Christ. One day, I want to die like Aaron. Dying as a sinful, imperfect, ordinary pastor, looking in faith to the resurrected Chief Shepherd, who can use my crooked works to glorify God and edify his Church.

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