I have a specific question on this ordination response: do you think I should use the word "moron?" The word describes my feelings quite precisely, but will it come across too slangy? Any other suggestions would also be appreciated!
2. What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace?
People are morons.
Okay, that may be a little strong. Let me back off of that a little bit. The practice of ministry has illuminated for me an understanding that without divine grace, humanity would live disconnected, isolated, lives – which frequently causes us to act like morons! This isolation manifests as sin in many ways. The most insidious of these sins are pride, prejudice, and pretension. Without God’s grace, people tend toward a prideful notion of inflated self-importance that is marked by self-centeredness, arrogance, and greed. The flipside of pride is prejudice, which minimizes the worth of another person based on a quick judgment made based on and unfair association of the individual with a group rather than a real relationship of mutual respect and trust. If pride isolates by inflating the self, prejudice isolates by deflating the other.
The third manifestation of isolation is more subtle, and comes in the form of pretensions, by which I mean attitudes and actions that are intended to mask the truth by falsely claiming that circumstances are better or healthier than they really are. What is truly evil about these pretensions is the multi-layered deception involved, in which the human tendency is to pretend that we don’t notice the pretension, even when all people involved are fully aware of them. This phenomenon is what allows us to nod and mumble, “How are you?” to our sisters and brothers sitting around us at worship, even when we do not really want to hear how they are actually doing. Further, it allows the responder to mutter an equally incoherent, “Just fine” without really meaning that, and without any intention of telling the questioner how they really “are.” Pretensions separate people from one another by inhibiting true relationship based on openness and honesty.
The force that acts counter to this isolation is the grace of God, which is a uniting, relationship building power at work everywhere and at all times. And if people will accept God’s grace by connecting to one another and to God, we inevitably find that life is a whole lot easier to live. Practicing ministry has shown me that there will be times that we can help another, and times that we need help; there will be times that we can comfort someone who is grieving, and times when we grieve and need another’s shoulder on which to cry; there will be times when we can serve, and times we need to allow ourselves to be served, and so forth. This is grace. Grace is the ongoing creation of loving relationships centered around the mystery of God, and without it, we are nothing more than a bunch of morons.