My father was a drinker, a complex man. A man who battled and raged war with addictions all his life right up until his final breaths. He was a simple man, a man who sought all his life to be free from his ghosts and, to quote The Ancient One from Dr. Strange, tried to learn to live above his demons.
He was not a man free from flaws, from mistakes, from hurt, from shame, from trauma, and from sin. He exemplified for me what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn meant when he said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” My father was a man full of both light and dark, good and evil, positive and negative, pure and impure, so on and so forth.
Today, I took a walk in the woods, and I thought about my dad and his complexity. How he was a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit and always felt led to pastor and minister a church. This is a calling I, too, share, albeit not as strongly as he did his. I thought about priesthood while thinking about dad today.
My father was not a man who embraced the notion of an ordained priesthood with bishops, priests, and deacons. However, while in nature today, I recalled how he had a earthen altar out in the woods surrounding his home. I thought about how he knew the Scriptures better than I could ever hope, prayed fervently everyday in ways I only aspire to pray, and offered up his prayers and struggles at that altar.
I made the connection that while he may not have shared a calling to priesthood in the manifestation of ordained priesthood I’ve come to believe in and to which I often feel called, but that he was still a priest. He was a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:13-17).
In my life, there have been many “priests” who weren’t priests per their specific Tradition and even denounced as remotely being priests by certain Christian Traditions, but who are, per Jesus being a priest outside the line of Aaron and in the order of Malchizedek, still priests nonetheless and fulfill what being a priest means to me!
My father was a priest. He was a righteous man filled with fault and weakness, but who, despite his ghosts, his demons, his past, his hurt, his sin, his pride, his addictions, his sin, and his shortcomings felt it right to pray daily, read his Bible, and, in a mystical nature beyond his own understanding, build an altar in the woods wherein he offered up thanksgiving, praise, laments, and requests to God for himself and for those whom he loved.
He and I shared a passion for all things theological and religious despite having vastly different opinions and convictions on those matters. It wasn’t until today that the thought hit me that he was indeed a “priest!” A priest in the order of Malchizedek, who wasn’t “ordained,” wasn’t recognized as a pastor or minister, and who didn’t share the same understanding of priesthood I share or that others may share, but he was a priest nonetheless.
He was a priest to me because he never stopped offering up thanksgiving and praise to God, which is the very definition of priest, one who offers back to God that which God has given, in thanksgiving and praise for God’s goodness. Dad never stopped doing that, he never stopped praying! My only prayer is that the altar I build, whether literally or metaphorically, will be a place of prayer like his was regardless of whether or not I serve as an ordained priest or not in this altar.
My prayer is that my faithfulness and devotion be like that of my father’s, a man who was a priest but never even knew it. May the Lord God remember David’s priesthood in His kingdom, always now and ever and forever. Amen.