It was early in December, probably a decade ago. The invites to seasonal parties and get-togethers and functions seemed to be popping up faster than bubbles in sparkling wassail. It is a busy time for a lot of people, Christians seem to plan even more festivities (and they do have good reason), and the expectation is that a pastor will make an appearance at all of them. I was mentioning this calendar burden to my family around the dinner table one evening, and, as I recall, my attitude about it all was, mmm…, less enthusiastic.
My wife made a comment to me that not only was and is true, it has proven itself very helpful. She said, “Look, Sean, you are not the captain of the ship, you are like the mermaid on the front of it. Your job is to be out front and get wet first.”
Because our church believes and really tries to practice the plurality of elders/pastors, I am not The Pastor, I am a pastor. It turns out that much of my role involves being in front and opening my mouth. But this is not an indicator of importance, it is my assignment. Referring to the position as the mermaid position serves well to poke at the preciousness and pretentiousness of so many pastors, myself included.
I’m sure that some seminary professor somewhere would disapprove of the analogy. I mean, it’s not biblical. Another pastor might argue that it makes light of a high calling; certainly it is a critical responsibility for which we will give account to God. And yet, maybe some of us would be a greater blessing to the “ship” if we took ourselves a little less seriously and earnestly looked to the Chief Shepherd, the Head of the Body, as the actual Captain.
Anyway, I’ve been using the imagery since then. A couple summers ago my in-laws commissioned one of our favorite local artists to paint a pic of me as mermaid. There’s a number of details that make it fun, such me holding a battering ram (which we talk about for sake of our Sunday morning assembly of worship), and a couple raggants, which is the mascot of our school. We’ve yet to find the perfect spot to hang it in our house, but now you know the story when you come and visit.