This Thing Called Ministry 


This has been one of those weekends in which the vastness of ministry revealed itself in powerful ways. A bar mitzvah in the sanctuary; messages from people sliding over the edge or watching their friends get close; a request from a dear friend to officiate her wedding, after several disastrous relationships almost left her looking to give up; funeral plans of a mother burying a daughter; reading aloud in worship from a church history the names of those who served in World War I; talking with a youth who has clearly grown up too quickly, dislikes himself too deeply, but in whom I can sense great things; hearing from a congregant about family members who served in the Confederacy, for the Soviets, for the Nazis, and wondering if in our prayers we only think of those on the right side of history; the opportunist manipulation of a tragedy, causing pain to those who knew a 13 year old who thought her only way out was death; and other moments both transcendent and messy, the stuff of life itself. 

Ministry has hurt in the past week or so. I’m not looking to rehearse that or look back, but I do need to be honest about my feelings. I’ve had my sincerity questioned. Been told that repentance was performed only for myself, that I intellectually apologize but do not have emotional awareness of that which my sin wrought. Things said and insinuated that I cannot own. I cannot and will not defend. So ministry has been hard. 

But this weekend I’ve felt like I have been asked to bear witness. I sensed the presence of God through the wide variety of human experiences just within the small circle I call home. And people have reached out, placing their trust in me, and asked for advice. For prayers. For someone to see their pain. Someone to extend love. Someone to put down the phone and look them in the eyes and say, “I’m here. No rush.” 

In the end that’s what it all is about, this ministry stuff. All the education, the training, the praying. It is about being willing to enter into people’s lives as one with their best interests at heart. A willingness to be held accountable for mistakes and not seek praise for what is done right. It is trying to allow oneself to be a vehicle for God’s grace. A promise to always do the hard work of being honest. Present. And committed. 

Some things I get painfully wrong. But sometimes I get the opportunity to simply experience how wonderful life is, exquisite even in its agony.   

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