Illustration of the Role of a Pastor: The Harpooner

I honestly cannot think of a better illustration of a pastor for his people. I found this gem at the end of one of the most challenging articles I have read in a while.

From Eugene Peterson’s Christianity Today article “The Unbusy Pastor“:

In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, there is a violent, turbulent scene in which a whaleboat scuds across a frothing ocean in pursuit of the great white whale, Moby Dick. The sailors are laboring fiercely, every muscle taut, all attention and energy concentrated on the task. The cosmic conflict between good and evil is joined: chaotic sea and demonic sea monster versus the morally outraged man, Captain Ahab. In this boat there is one man who does nothing. He doesn’t hold an oar; he doesn’t perspire; he doesn’t shout. He is languid in the crash and the cursing. This man is the harpooner, quiet and poised, waiting. And then this sentence: “To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.”

Melville’s sentence is a text to set alongside the psalmist’s “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10), and alongside Isaiah’s “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Is. 30:15).

Pastors know there is something radically wrong with the world. We are also engaged in doing something about it. The stimulus of conscience, the memory of ancient outrage, the challenge of biblical command involve us in the anarchic sea which is the world. The white whale, symbol of evil, and the crippled captain, personification of violated righteousness, are joined in battle. History is a novel of spiritual conflict. In such a world noise is inevitable and immense energy is expended. But if there is no harpooner in the boat, there will be no proper finish to the chase. Or if the harpooner is exhausted, having abandoned his assignment and become an oarsman, he will not be ready and accurate when it is time to throw his javelin.