24 As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25 who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26 And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will. 1 Tim 4:24-26 GNT
Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Sacred Host, recognize Him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.
Our educational work should have a purpose: to elicit a change in our students, to make them grow in wisdom, to help them undergo a transformation, to provide them with knowledge, with new feelings and, at the same time, achievable ideals. Many institutions promote the formation of wolves more than of brothers and sisters by educating their students to compete and succeed at the expense of others, with only a few weak ethical standards.
For most of my life, I have loved a good argument. I loved getting into it with someone, whether over politics, sports (an easy one NOW, since Boston teams have been great for a couple of decades), philosophy, even, I am embarrassed to say, religion.
I still occasionally still enjoy a good debate, and with a highly intellectual 12 year old in the house, I have a ready made opponent. Yet I would dread to see him observe me arguing about religion. For what I would be teaching him is that our belief is God is not as important as winning an argument.
Our relationship with God, our ability to trust in Him is too precious, to important to argue about. Correction needs to me more loving, more patient, and this is something every single one of us needs to grow in and mentor others, helping them develop an attitude like Jesus.
This is something we need to model, to teach, whether as pastors, elders teachers, parents, our purpose is to help those entrusted to our care to mature in faith. What Pope Francis noted about our educational system is true in our lives as well – we need to stop pushing competitiveness in a way that humiliates and demonizes the competition. It has invaded to many relationships, wrecked to many friendships and divided too many communities, and sad to say, to many churches.
I think the quote from Benedict XVI shows us where the hope of the answer is found. I have long thought the answer to division is not found in an office or conference room, but at the altar. To realize that the Body broken and the blood spilt for me was also broken and spilt for my nemesis, to realize my being drawn to the table to communion is matched by the same Holy Spirit drawing them there, puts ou relationship into a different form. It helps us recognize Jesus in them, or the work the Spirit is doing to draw them to Jesus, a work that is either advanced or hindered by my actions, words and attitudes.
This is one of the myriad of blessings found in the Lord’s Supper, and it is one of the reasons I run to it, or spend time contemplating the gift it is, especially when I am in conflict. To realize what God is doing, bringing us all to completion, bringing us all into the holy relationship with Him that He has created and set us apart for, is amazing. At my church, we still have an altar rail, where everyone kneels together, and receives this blessing together. The choir and praise team especially, but many others have begun to hold hands after they receive, another sigh of unity. This isn’t forced, and it started during a time when one member was struggling. It is a sign of this unity that transcends anything we could argue about.
We can still strive to do our best, we can still try to correct what we see is in error, we can still hold strong opinions, but when we see Christ in the other person, it calms our spirits, it helps us still do our best, but to do so in a way that glorifies God, and encourages them to trust Him.
Lord, help us not only be good examples of Your love and care, help us to encourage that in others, including those we struggle with…AMEN
Benedict XVI, “Homily for the Solemn Mass of Corpus Christi,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 221.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 286.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
1 Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.Philippians 2:1-8 (TEV)
It seems more and more advertising dollars are spent trying to convince me that I either should become a life coach, or that I need one. A lot of master’s programs at Catholic and Protestant universities have M.A. and M. DIv programs in becoming a spiritual director. Heck, one group is willing to provide me coaching, via videos and taped phone calls where I have no imput at all, but I can listen to them anytime I want. I also have been inundated with books by preachers about ministry, and how to take my church from a failure to a success, and books about how to preach to my people so their lives turn completely around and they can live a good and proper life.
Lots of advice….
Now, don’t compelte read me out of context, there are those that are wise, and experienced coaches, some of whom I talk to and bounce ideas with on occaison. But I’ve also talked to a coach in revitalization who was trying to get me to hire him as a coach, whose experience in churches under 1000 members was non-existent. They developed their theories and their plan based on statistics and the works of others.
As I look at all these programs, and talk to some who director them, I am reminded of a ministry opportunity I once had, to teach and shepherd a group of young married couples. Only one problem, I was 23 years old and had just broken up with my fiance a few months before!. But hey, I could have purchased the latest book by Dobson, or Trent and Smalley and taught the material.
As I think about the ministry, and how we train our ministers (deacons) and pastors, I wonder what sort of message this sends them about how they should serve their people. Do we want ministers who stand back and observe people and give advice that they haven’t quite experienced themselves? Do we want them to turn to studies and books and “journeys” that are not unlike an old diagram with yes/no questions with tracks to take? Or do we want someone who will be there, who may not have the answers but will continually point us to Christ’s presence in our lives, to His promises revealed in scripture, who assumes that God’s presence in our lives, is the final answer… and how that applies is something we work through together.
I think we need to get away from the cookie cutter approach, whether it is more traditional, or more contemporary, more cutting edge or more based in cautious stewardship of yesterday’s concepts. We have to stop de-humanizing the relationship between pastor and people, and and humble ourselves and get down in the mud together, and see what God is doing. That’s not the way Chirst worked among those with whom He lived. He got involved, He knew their pain, He took their burdens.. and He calls us to love each other in the same way. Including being patient with those whom we serve.. He didn’t meet them in an office, he met them at tax tables, and by the waiting room at the ppol, on the road and where the boats gather… He met them in their life, and endured with them
Maybe that’s the point about all this, that it isn’t just a title, but finding someone to work with who is willing to do what Christ did – to come to us in our brokenness, and minister healing to us. Not just advice, not just a sermon series, not just rubrics and guidelines and 6 steps to that. But someone who comes and serves, and cares, and brings healing and trains us to do the same to others.
May we train ministers and pastors and bishops and our laity – all who minister in Christ’s name.. to do so as Christ did..