From the Gospel of Luke:
“You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Luke 9:41 (NRSV) – October 18, 2014)
Project Evaluation Review Technique – “PERT” . . . . I learned to do PERT charts in business school. PERT charts diagram the flow of a project through its various tasks and processes, assigning some as “essential” tasks which must be done in a particular order, later tasks depending on earlier tasks to have been accomplished by particular persons, while other tasks “float,” they can be done any time by any team member.
I wonder sometimes if Jesus could have made use of one. What would he have put into the “essential task” boxes and what into the “floating task” boxes and what would have been the flow of activities and to whom would everything be assigned? If Jesus had made use of a PERT chart, I wonder if he would do with it what I eventually did with every one I tried to make for parish ministry . . . throw it away in frustration!
That was the eventual outcome of every parish project PERT chart because inevitably some essential task to be done by a volunteer would not get done; the entire enterprise would grind to a halt and either never be accomplished or only get done if the rector or another paid staff member did what the volunteer had promised to do.
I confess to possibly breaking the Third Commandment on a regular basis. I suppose I could have echoed Jesus’ words of frustration, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” However, more often than not, my prayer of weariness is a single word, “Jesus!” I try not to do that, but it just pops out. Stymied and upset, before I even think about it, I let loose, “Jesus!” My hope is that he understands this as a prayer rather than as an curse. (I once had a Jesuit spiritual director who opined that, uttered in exasperation, the ejaculation “O fuck!” may be the most honest of human prayers. I don’t use that one very often.)
In such instances, the PERT chart, now useless, ends up in the circular file cabinet. In fact, I’ve stopped making PERT charts for any project that requires volunteer labor. It’s just a waste of time.
Of course, the church is not a volunteer organization. The apostles were not volunteers – they were called. Christians, likewise, are not volunteers – we are called. “You did not choose me but I chose you.” (Jn 15:16) Jesus, the one who does the calling, probably has more claim to be frustrated that parish clergy like me, who are simply among the called . . . but there it is.
In any event, I hear the frustration in this text and, therefore, I trust that he understands when I utter my prayers of exasperation.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.