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“Hello, this is Pastor Thoma.”

“Hi, I was supposed to be put through to Pastor Chris. Is he available?”

“Well, if you mean Pastor Thoma, whose first name is Chris, then you’ve got ’im.”

“Oh, great, well, Pastor Chris, I’m Tom from—” I don’t care where you’re from, pal, and you just lost any chance of selling me anything.  “—and I was wondering if you might have a minute to let me tell you about our new ten-week video Bible study series on the Book of Revelations.”

“Well, actually, I don’t really have time right—”

“Pastor Chris, this is really a great series, and I can personally guarantee it’ll help you be successful in guiding your flock through a very important book of the Bible that a lot of folks find confusing. Do you find it confusing?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s because you’re a pastor. But, Pastor Chris, I’ll bet some of your people can’t make heads or tails of the thing.”

“I hear you, but I don’t think—”

“I think you’ll appreciate the series. It deals with the rapture, how to see modern events in light of Biblical prophecies, and a whole bunch more things that you may not have even thought about.”

“Listen, Tom, I appreciate your call and—”

“And I can send you the series for free. You keep it for thirty days, and if you decide you don’t want it, just send it back. You only pay shipping and handling. If you decide to keep it, you’ll be billed three easy payments of only $59.99.”

“I’m sorry, Tom, but I do need to go. I don’t think I’m interested in—”

“I gotcha, Pastor Chris. You’re a busy man. How about I call back in a few weeks to check and see if you’ve changed your mind? Maybe I could share a little more about the series when you have more time.”

“That’s fine, but when you call back, if I don’t answer, just ask for Pastor Thoma.”

“Will do. Pastor Chris, I do so thank you for your time.”

“Right. Blessings in your day.”

Click.

First of all, there’s no “s” at the end of the word “Revelation.” Stop adding one. It makes you sound foolish.

And second…

No offense to the Reverends out there who go by their first names in their churches and communities, but honestly, whose idea was it to start this silly practice in the Church, anyway? Sure, I get the point that some pastors believe their people feel closer to them when they are permitted to use their first names. And I get the urge to scratch the point’s itch, especially as it appears to so many in the clergy as an avenue for personal or institutional relevancy. But as I’ve said in so many other places, the Church and her pastors have never had a problem with being relevant. The message we bring and the service we render are about as relevant as they get. The world may not see it that way, and that’s to be expected, but where the hell are we in the match if right out of the gate the pastors themselves consider their stations as intrinsically less-than-relevant, that is, in need of a little something extra to make it worth anyone’s while?

And by the way, there’s a reason that the need to be relevant itches in the first place. It’s a rash. Rashes itch. And rashes need to be cured, not perpetuated.

In tandem, but along a different trail of thought, would anyone of any office—especially someone who rightly understands his office as having been bestowed rather than achieved—would such an office holder be more likely to reshape the institution into what he wants it to be, or would he strive to be faithful to it as it was given, being the best he can be as its steward? I can’t necessarily answer that question, although I have my suspicions as to the answer. In the meantime, I can approach the question from another direction.

Would it ever be appropriate for me to address our state’s top executive, Rick Snyder, as Governor Rick? Or the policeman that pulled me over as Officer Bob? Or the traffic court magistrate as Judge Judy?

Wait a second…

Anyway, as I was about to say, if any of these people ever set such a standard, I can assure you that it would alter my regard for them and the seriousness of the duty they are performing.

“This sounds pretty self-serving and pompous, Pastor Chris.”

No, it’s not. In fact, it’s just the opposite. To address an officeholder in reverential ways—ways less concerned with assuring one another of equality and more inclined toward demonstrating a respect for the important distinctions between the servant and the one being served—is to esteem the person, the office, and the bestower of the office. And it teaches others to do the same.

The Office of Pastor—or the Office of the Holy Ministry, as we know it in the Lutheran Church—is by no means an office of pomposity. It’s not a station of prestige or lordship. It’s a station of service. Knowing this, believing this, pastors should be the first ones to protect against practices that allow for perceptions of the office—both inside and outside of the Church—to degenerate into the realms fictional characters you’d expect to find in a child’s favorite TV show. Officer Steve and Nurse Sally—I just don’t take those types seriously, and I’d be willing to bet that you don’t either.

We’re in a real post-modern mess, here, folks. Respect for all things sacred—people, places, you name it—it’s all slipping away into the deeper waters of trained disrespect with each allowance we make. When Pastors do it, they’re willingly dialing down their own relevancy while making it harder for the rest of us to be seen for the substance and rescue we’re trying represent and bring to people who need it.

Now, I won’t go into the stories validating my words. Instead, I’ll simply say, “Pastor Bob and Father Jim, do us all a favor and cut it out. Respect yourself and your office enough to expect a higher level of ettiquette, because right now, when it comes to the clergy being taken seriously by just about anyone—especially the people outside of the Church—you’re part of the problem and not the solution.”

Thankfully, there are plenty of whisky distilleries that haven’t succumbed to such tragedies of respect. The ones that have, well, they exist to prove my point. I don’t know anyone who refers to The Macallan as “The Mac,” but I’ve heard plenty of nicknames for Jack Daniels. One is approached with the respect due an artisan, and the other is a mass-produced attempt at being every whisky drinker’s pal.

Knockando whiskies are similar examples of admirable substance. A sip from its Master Reserve 21-Year-Old edition and you’ll see that it isn’t striving to be everyone’s buddy, but rather it wants to show you what lies beyond the sludge of Jack and Coke—a better, more gifting horizon that surpasses the experience of just drinking booze.

The nose of this exceptional whisky is the first revelation of its class. There’s just the right amount of nutmeg and sherry that arrive in the second sniff to balance the richer wood spices that came with the first.

The palate is a respectable concoction of crystallized ginger, smoked nectarines, buttermilk biscuit dough, and zested lemons. In the finish, the fruit smoke lingers, and after a while, is joined by a glazing of dark chocolate.

My recommendation: Strip down to you boxers, get yourself a plastic cup, pop open the bottle, and give the ol’ Knocky 21 a go.

Hmm. Knowing the valuable phenomenon that exists inside this bottle, do you hear how ridiculous that sounds?

Remember that the next time you greet your pastor. What is he to you? Is he the Knockando—a vessel in the stead of the Divine sent to give you extraordinary things—or is he just any old bottle of Jack?