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Ministering to others will always include suffering, but here is the secret to surviving it.

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:15-16 (TEV)

1  Keep on loving one another as Christians.2  Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. 3  Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are. Hebrews 13:1-3 (TEV)

25  And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26  If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (TEV)

Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.

Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.  William Goldman from the Princess Bride

Though life isn’t always pain, (it just seems like it some years!), There is enough of it to go around.

Since ministry is about meeting people where they are at and revealing to them the love and mercy and work of Christ in their lives, it must also be true that “ministry is pain, and anyone who is telling you different, is selling you something!”

As we look at the quotes from the Apostle Paul, there is a simple acknowledgment of this fact.  We share in the suffering, we share in the tears and the pain of those who are enduring hard times.

There is no avoiding that truth.  If your church, your Bible Study and the people in them aren’t experiencing anxiety, pain, concern, it is probable that they are, you just don’t see it.  It is possible that everything is awesome but more likely, people are afraid to open up to share what they are struggling with in life.

So, given that we will encounter people who suffer, who we will share the tears and the pain with, the question then becomes, how do we survive this, especially when there are many people struggling, many tears to share, many people to care for in our circles?  How do we share in the pain, without it having a long-term effect on us mentally, physically and spiritually?

On a tangent, modern psychology is now recognizing such stress on the life of caregivers (counselors, pastors, teachers) and first responders, as they develop information on “Second Hand Shock Syndrome” a form of PTSD that constant exposure to others’ stresses can cause.   Take it from me, I have learned to be aware of its effects, as they impact others around me when I am dealing with too much.

My answer may seem too simple, not scientific enough, and not always possible.

It is the answer that Pope Francis notes in the quote above.  It is the personal encounter with Christ that can alleviate the oppressive discouragement,  It is only encountering Jesus, regularly and intimately that enables us to continue to be tender and caring with those who are weeping, with those who are broken.

We find our hope and theirs, as Christ is healing our brokenness, as He is wiping away our tears, as the Holy Spirit comforts us with a peace that goes beyond all logic.  But that only comes in those moments where we realize His presence, where we just are still and know He is God, that He is our God.

Such as at the altar, when we receive His Body and Blood.  Such as in our daily time where we pray, and read, and simply adore the Lord who has given us life. SUch as the time when we hold each others hand, and silently pray as we weep, and then experience His peace.

Are we still going to weep?  Yes.

Are we still going to feel helpless and broken?  Yes, absolutely.

Are we going to endure, sure of the ministry that is God’s, that He shares with us, that will bring comfort and peace to those we serve?  Yes, absolutely.

God is with you, know that dwell on that, and the tears can flow, and the weeping can occur, and you will be amazed at what he does thru… and in you.

Godspeed, and God’s peace….

Heavenly Father, help us in our brokenness to rely on the Spirit’s comfort, and help us to see that comfort shared with those who are weeping… in Jesus name, we pray, AMEN!

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 244). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist

Happiness? Sex, Anxiety and the Daily Grind…. but also…

Devotional Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia

4  May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Philippians 4:4 (TEV) 

61 “Happy?”  The question made me think. Words have not yet been invented to express all that we feel in the heart and in the will – when we know ourselves to be children of God!.  (1)

I just entered a chapter in Furrow that is all about happiness, or perhaps, more accurately in English – joy.

I don’t feel all that full of joy today.  I have a bear of a sermon to write ( on the plan of God revealed in “Do not Commit Adultery.” to my older congregation.   I am dealing with some anxiety because of what I know some friends are enduring things I cannot imagine. I am tired and sore and the idea of putting on a fake smile and saying, “It is well”.  I would feel like a hypocrite. a liar, and in this season of Lent, not quite right.  I am supposed to be, and in many ways I am lamenting this broken world in which we walk. THere are days when what resonates with me is not “Rejoice!” but the phrase from my teenage years, “Life a b&@*#” or as Siddhartha Buddha put it, “Life is suffering”

Rejoice always?

Yeah, Sure.

Even as I type, I know that tonight, as the beginning notes of the Kyrie are played, as the voices of our congregation sing God’s praises, as they proclaim His love, I will know joy.  It will hear such joy in laughter, as they watch an middle age pastor try to preach about God’s masterpiece of life….within the scope of God’s words about….. SEX? I will know such joy as we communion, fellowship, as we share in Christ’s Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper.  It will extend through-out the service, and as we eat together, sharing in each other’s lives.

But what about until then?  How will I know that joy?  How will I obey Paul’s command to “REJOICE?”

I need to hear it less as a command, more of an encouragement, a reminder,

St . Josemaria does a great job helping me see beyond what I have read (and heard ) for years.  It is as we know ourselves as God’s children that we can find that joy. Even in lament, as we know, as we trust God, and know His promises of His presence, of His love, mercy and how He cares for us, It is that incredible love that gives us a sense that all will work it out.

No wonder ancient Jews would bind the word of God to their forehead and to their hands.  TO constantly remind them of this.  It’s why I usually wear a cross, either the one embroidered on my shirt, or one around my neck.

Paul says that to the church in Phillipi, in that passage ( I chose to use the TEV this morning – because it makes it more clear)  Joy is found as we now we are in Christ. In that union.  For God has attached us to Christ, to Him in His death, and in His resurrection.  And even more, in the very presence of the Father.  Again, from Paul,

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.Colossians 3:1-3 (TEV) 

There it is, the words of life, that remind us of our greatest joy…..>

That we aren’t alone, that God is here… with us… and we are more than just walking through this life…

There is our joy, there is our hope, there are we…. with Him.

(1)  Escrvia, Josemaria  Furrow

Some thoughts about why the Church is Here….

Devotional/Discussion THought of the Day:

10  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11  For the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. 13  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14  But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? 15  And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!” 16  But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?” 17  Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:10-17 (NAB) 

196         Rest assured, there are many people there who can understand your way. There are also souls who, whether they know it or not, are looking for Christ and have not found Him. But “How can they hear about Him, if nobody tells them?”

197         Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.

30 years ago, when I started “officially” studying to become a pastor, I was also dealing with some pretty challenging personal issues because of a genetic disorder.  In one of the discussions, a question was asked.   I can still remember where I was when it was asked, because it got me thinking.

“What is the reason the church is here?”

My thoughts went something like this.  If God’s desire is for us to be with Him, in a place where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more suffering, no more Marphan’s Syndrome, then why doesn’t He just take us home like He did with Elijah?  As you get baptised, the chariots of fire come down and whisk you to heaven.  Of course, some pastors, evangelists and ministers would have to remain behind to continue to work to convert people, but hey, God will take care of us.

There have times where I have re-thought this.  When a friend is dealing with cancer, when a mom has to visit her son in jail, when we have to deal with authorities whose works frustrates us (whether those authorities are at work, in government, or the most frustrating type, in the church.  I could go on and on, with the struggles of life, but the question remains.  Why not just take 99 percent of the believers and bring them home to the purest of joy and save them from the crap we go through on earth?  If the doctrine of the rapture was applicable (my college had some pro-rapture – and a lot against it) then no one should struggle, no one should go through any kind of tribulation.  And there is a lot of tribulation out there in life.

This question, “why does God allow us to go through all the stuff we go through?  Why doesn’t He just bring us home?”  Would not that be the loving thing for God to do?  To alleviate our suffering, to save us from the ravages of sin?

My answer is… His Mission.

You see, if ministry is only for pastors and missionaries, then taking the rest of us out of here is logical.  We don’t need to be here, we don’t need to see churches burning in Egypt, the Sudan.  We don’t need to wait for the results of CAT Scans, and colonoscopies, and angiograms.  We don’t need to be there for those grieving, or those struggling with addictions or mental illness, or watching their children deal with their special needs.

But God, as odd as this sounds, needs us all here.   Yes, God needs us here.

For we are those who will minister, who will serve, whose lives are testimonies to His work.  As such, they testify to His presence, in the good times and the bad,   We are the ones sent out – not just the pastors and missionaries – but everyone of us, into every place we go.

God wishes everyone to be saved, and so He sends His people, He apostles us to the world… and our own little corner of it.

And the more we realize how He is with us in this endeavor, the more we realize that He is our life, the more we want people to know this…….the more God’s mission, God’s work becomes our life.

And our devotional life and our understanding of our mission, and our prayer and worship and study all coalesce, for that is who we are in Christ Jesus.

God’s sent people…..

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1028-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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