sometimes i suspect that pastoral ministers are not all that different from sin eaters. based upon the very limited research that i have completed, i've learned that sin eaters were a group of societal outcasts who took the sins of the dead upon themselves by eating a ritual meal of bread and ale that was either passed over or laid upon a fresh corpse. by eating the bread and drinking the ale the sin eater supposedly set the dead free from a life of roaming and, presumably, set the aggrieved family free from the terror of haunting.
likewise, every day pastors sit beside dying marriages, corroding churches and, worst of all, their devolving selves and somehow find the strength to eat the bread and drink the wine. like the sin eaters of old they then tromp off to their secluded study, prayer closet or take a solitary walk in hopes that the sin they've absorbed and the fucked up messes they are now entangled in will somehow be resolved or reconciled in hope that the people involved therein might be renewed or reborn. in sum, pastors decend into the dens of the dead as Jesus did before them and, on their best days, do not venture forth without hope.
as pastors sit beside the dead, devour the bread and sip the cup, is it any wonder that their own lives are often strained to the breaking point? does it not take great faith to wake the dead for a living and constantly endure the darkness in hope of a new day?
time and again i hear people denounce and lament the brokenness of these sin eaters. while i don't deny either the unfortunate causes or effects of such brokeness, i'm honestly amazed that any endure this dark descent.
so today, as i think about my brother and sister sin eaters and the horrors they endure on account of Christ i tremble. i want to extend more grace and mercy to those who share this horribly beautiful calling. moreover, on my better days, i want to extend this same grace to myself.
i probably shouldn't write about such matters in such a careless manner. but so it goes.