Wonderful (Perils of Shepherds)

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"Wonderful, They called me "Wonderful"
So I said "Wonderful" - if you insist,
I will be "Wonderful" And they said "Wonderful",
Believe me, it's hard to resist 'Cause it feels wonderful,
They think I'm wonderful"
-The Wizard, "Wonderful" (Wicked the Musical)

I recently discovered (courtesy of Pandora) the musical "Wicked".  I have always been a big fan of Broadway musicals, growing up listening to "Fiddler on the Roof", "Oliver", "Annie" and others.  One of my dreams is to some day see a musical I like on Broadway.  My daughter has seen her first musical, going with her grandparents to see "The Lion King."

The plot of "Wicked" is rather intriguing and full of good allegories.  Today I want to talk about the Wonderful Wizard.  We know his story from the original movie, "The Wizard of Oz".  He blew into Oz and became the Wizard.  In the musical he talks about how he became the Wizard, describing how the citizens of Oz called him wonderful and he fell in love with being popular and proclaimed wonderful.  As you see in the quote above, he says it feels wonderful to be called wonderful.

This song made me think about one of the major perils of being a pastor.  As I have talked about before on this blog (and in sermons), there is a real danger of ego and conceit in the position of pastor.  This danger springs from two simultaneous sources.  The normal ego of a person and the respect and love given by people.  When you are looked up to, revered, respected and loved it feels good.  It appeals to our natural sense of self and ego.  The stronger the love and honor, the better it feels.  It feels wonderful to be wonderful.  And as the Wizard observes, it's hard to resist.

I long ago made the rather controversial decision to eschew going by my titles.  To the adults at church I am not "Pastor Hall", "Pastor Ira", or "Pastor".  I'm just Ira.  Many have struggled with this and resisted it.  They proclaim that I should be respected and therefore addressed with the title of respect.  Now it is not inappropriate for me to receive respect.  It is Biblical to respect those who are put in leadership.  It is not Biblical, however to elevate leaders to an exalted position, nor for the leader to lord rather than serve.

I don't think it is a sin for Pastor to be called "Pastor" but I do know that for me, and, on observation, for others to have that title begins to feel very good and appeal to the ego in quiet and subtle ways.  It makes you feel like you are on the top instead of where the chief of slaves should be, on the bottom.

It feels wonderful to be wonderful.  The Wizard observes that its even part of his name (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz).  When being wonderful becomes part of your name, there is a peril lurking.  For me, I choose to avoid the peril altogether because I know that being a pastor, standing before a group of people who assemble each week to listen to what I am sharing, who tend to look up to me and follow me is supposed to be humbling but can feel really good to this man's ego.

The only thing wonderful about me and the work I do is the work of God through the grace and mercy of Christ.  Only God is truly wonderful.  All of us Christians who find ourselves in a position of leadership or authority need to constantly be aware of the wonders of being called wonderful and get back to our knees, dying to self, serving, and making sure we don't fall in love with the love and respect of those we have been called to serve.

If you are interested, here is a clip from "Wicked" where the Wizard talks about feeling "Wonderful".  Imagine how a pastor could find himself singing this song.  The Wizard points out that the people wanted to believe in him.  Sounds all too familiar.  I enjoy this song and find it a great cautionary thought for myself.   [video:youtube:_c4JuzT_X5E]

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