PASTOR'S MESSAGE FOR SUMMER 2017
So often in church we hear about our call to care for others. While this is a noble and godly focus there are also times when we need to be cared for. This is perhaps the hardest thing to admit. We are not super human. Whether they are financial, health, spiritual, or relationship related, the many challenges of life will, at some point, affect us all.
Admitting that one is overloaded or is some other way unable to attend to life, has become stigmatized. We don't want to admit when we are struggling or need a hand. Our reluctance to ask for help may be rooted in pride, shame, a sense of duty, fear, or some other reason. Also we are told that we are to be the ones helping. Be a Good Samaritan or care giver.
These cultural messages have the potential to lead to an anxiety that turns our feet into cement shoes, or our tongue into wax. Making the situation worse is a cultural mythos of independence re-enforced by a society that venerates the independence of the self-made successful person, and popularizes phrases like “cowboy up.”
It is all summed up in the deadly sin; pride. In the standard list of deadly sins, (they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth) it comes first for a reason. As Albertans we are a proud people. As such we want to the helper and not the one being helped. It becomes part of one’s identity. This can be especially hard for men who see themselves as the bread winner and protector of the family. Women may have this problem too when they are no longer primary care givers. As identity is shifted, either by age or circumstance, it becomes spiritually painful to adjust. But adjust we must. Becoming cared for is allowed. It may also be the godliest thing of which one is able.
Being cared for is of godly important because, unexpectedly, it is an inverted way of serving. Yes, we serve by being served. Even Jesus was ministered to, by the unclean woman and angels. We too minster by being cared for. There was a cartoon I recall, where there are a group of Scouts on two corners of an intersection each taking turns helping an elderly lady cross the street. Going back and forth across the intersection, I am sure that lady got her 10,000 steps in while the Scouts stood waiting their turn. While that is an example of reductio ad absurdum, it illustrates the point that sometimes we need to be cared for because someone else needs to be doing the caring. This brings me to a song by Richard Gillard, entitled “The Servant Song.” It quickly expresses how we are to be in Christian community. A community where there is mutual care and grace and forgiveness. This is the first stanza:
Brother, let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too
This is the godly act that is being served. Without the needs of others, there is no carrying for others. Without the sins of others there is no grace in forgiving. Without the brokenness of others there is no Ministry of healing. Since grace, forgiveness, and Ministry, are the godly acts of being a Christian, we have a necessity for those that need grace, and forgiveness, and healing.
With this understanding, suffering becomes a very different place to be. Suffering is now important in its own rite. Suffering has profound and unknowable worth. While not something to be sought after, with this theological perspective we can see suffering as a holy endeavor, and the passive act of being helped, becomes a godly practice. Through it, helping makes us more holy as we console with the consolation we ourselves have first received. And it is why St. Paul can give thanks for the suffering he endures, because without it, he would not receive grace. It also makes this prayer more profound
I give thanks for the sins of my brothers and sisters because without their transgressions I would not have the gift of being able to forgive.
As we wander through this summer, may your sufferings be consoled and your transgressions be forgiven as you proclaim the gospel though consoling and forgiving those in need.
Thanks be to God.
See you on Sunday