During a sociology of religion class, our professor shared that religious belief and participation helps to hold the elements of life together. As a Christian and a pastor, I would agree but contend that for us as followers of Jesus Christ, he anchors us in the varied, unexpected, unanticipated events of our earthly existence. This weekend has been a reminder of this for me on several levels, dealing with emerging matters that command your time and attention. I am mindful of the saying that "ministry occurs in the interruptions" and am quite aware that as pastors often our most effective ministry takes place in those moments where the normalcy of life has been significantly altered.
When you consider that our own lives are subject to the certain changes of life, and extend that into the congregations and communities we serve, it is a given that at any point in time there is someone under your pastoral care who is trying to come to terms with some disruptive event. The scale of these events is wide-ranging: an unbudgeted expense, the loss of employment, the death of a pet, an unfavorable diagnosis, the breakup of a relationship, sick children, the loss of a friendship, relocating to a new area, a spouse receiving news of deployment, a child starting school or leaving for college.... The list goes on and on. I remember my friend and mentor, Dr. Karl Stegall, sharing at First United Methodist Church of Montgomery on several occasions that "If you preach to those who are hurting, you'll always have a congregation."
There is so much taking place in our area, in our denomination, across our country and throughout our world. The 24-hour news cycle keeps our heads spinning at a dizzying pace and the headlines are constantly changing: earthquakes, ISIS, Afghanistan, domestic violence, North Korea, poverty, war in the Middle East, same-sex marriage and court battles, elections, Obamacare, celebrity marriages and divorces, "reality" television stars... It can be, and at times it is, overwhelming. And in those moments, I am reminded that Christ is present in the chaos of life and holds all things -- that is, ALL things -- in his care.
In preparing for an upcoming Cabinet gathering, I have been reading Christ, My Companion based on a portion of the Prayer of St. Patrick. I offer that prayer to you as you begin your week, filled with both the anticipated and unexpected demands of ministry, hopeful that it will provide a source of inspiration and assurance for you as you serve:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Thank you for your leadership and I pray that we all stayed centered in Christ as we seek to minister in the frenzied, hurried world in which we live.
Blessings and peace,