Good Shepherd Lutheran Church


The Shepherd's Staff

Roomba Pastoring

Posted by Ted Moeller on

It’s July. I’m in Florida. Outside it’s 95° with an equivalent number registering the humidity. I’m sitting in my sister-in-law’s air-conditioned condo working on a Newsletter article for the next month. Which means I’m easily distracted. They have a Roomba, this disc-shaped vacuum cleaner that bounces around all over the place. It seems to be quite random, but actually it is adhering to a precise geometric pattern, dependent on what it bumps into. It’s hypnotizing: emitting a gentle hum punctuated by an occasional rustle as it sucks up debris. For the moment I can only watch it, unable to concentrate on anything else. The Roomba. Steady and sure; quiet, methodical, and patient. In for the long haul. If it hits an obstacle it simply caroms off it and heads in a different direction, free of regret or resentment. Continuously moving, always on the go, yet stress free.
“Ah, to be a Roomba pastor,” I thought.

Opposed to being a regular vacuum cleaner pastor, I guess, which is more like me. Moving back and forth over trouble spots, wherever cleaning is required. Focused, not rambling; plugged in and directed where needed and put away when not. Knowing it has a job to do. Cleanliness is next to godliness and all that!
An unbidden, inappropriate thought comes to mind: “Am I implying being a pastor sucks?”

There is a tiny slip of paper—like from a shredder or torn from a spiral notebook—sitting in front of the TV. I watch as the Roomba keeps missing it as it makes sweep after sweep across the room. It’s getting to the point where I want to go and pick it up by hand. So frustrating. In my analogy I’m chiding the regular vacuum cleaner (and therefore the regular vacuum cleaner pastor) for being task-consumed, only concerned with trouble spots. But upon further reflection, I think the Roomba (and therefore the Roomba pastor) is even more so…sticking to its unwavering path, no matter what the context. If I were to be a Roomba pastor, things like doctrinal purity, precedent, and taking a moral stance give me license to ignore unexpected needs, contingencies, and interruptions that often arise. My trajectory becomes more important than what I am called to do.

I shake my head. Back to work. I’m still not getting anywhere with the Newsletter article. I turn to look out the window at a golf course I haven’t seen anyone on because it’s so hot. With a sigh, I finally put some words on paper: “We should have a Roomba kind of faith and a vacuum kind of love.”

That’s a good start, I tell myself. Or maybe a good ending.