A hermeneutic of trust

March 22, 2010

As I read about Jesus' instructions
to his disciples in Luke, I think of my church's instruction of
interns. We offer a program that's designed for intensive and personal
discipleship training and character formation. Over time, the interns
learn to relinquish their sense of autonomy and control, and to begin to
trust the wisdom, guidance and advocacy of their pastor and
congregation in building up the community.

The
interns respond positively to assignments to preach, teach or lead, but
sometimes I ask them to shovel snow or do the dishes and they're
surprised and even dismayed. I lead my interns the way I do because I
was mentored that way by the man who has been my pastor and mentor since
I was nine years old. He remains a trusted friend and confidant to this
day. He sensed a call to the ministry in me years before I or others
did. I trusted that he loved me, was my advocate, and that he was closer
to the heart and will of God than I was. I never made a serious,
life-changing decision without his counsel in those early years of
ordained ministry.

I remember
complaining to him during my first call: I have to get out of here; the
senior pastor is old-fashioned and oppressive, and won't empower me as
an associate pastor. My friend's response: Stay put. I wondered if he'd
heard what I'd said, but I trusted his wisdom. A year later, I let him
know how grateful I was for his advice since things had worked out well.

I
realize that the average American would interpret this kind of
relationship as cultish. But here's the thing: both my mentor and I were
born in Korea. In Eastern civilization, it is an honor to be the
protégé of a respected leader, and words like obedience, submission and
dependence do not connote weakness, cowardice or laziness. I realize now
that I am trying to get my pastoral interns to be more like Jesus, a
Near Eastern Asian Jew who had no problem submitting to the Father, and
expected such submission from his disciples.

Instead
of a childish hermeneutic of blind faith or an adultish hermeneutic of
suspicion, discipleship requires a hermeneutic of trust. We suspend
judgment and relocate our locus of authority to a fallible other who has
demonstrated greater trustworthiness than we have.

Additional lectionary columns by Kim appear in the March 23 issue of the Century-click here to subscribe.