Monday, October 5, 2009

Announcing the Kingdom as Preacher and Pastor

I recently was scheduled to preach on Mark 10:13-16, the story of Jesus demanding that the disciples let the "little children" be brought to him so he could bless them with his touch of love. The setting for this sermon was a baptism celebration, my first as pastor of Hope. I was focused and ready on the Saturday before, so I took some time to do some pastoral visits. My first visit took me to an assisted living facility, where an elderly couple from our congregation resides. One of their concerns was that we don't have a system for getting them an audio version of each week's message. (While we do have an audio link on the church website, that isn't practical for this couple. So, there is a ministry idea for us to pursue.)
Anyway, I offered to read the scripture and to give them a Reader's Digest version of the sermon. I wasn't sure how this would go, given that the couple was quite elderly and the message was about parents and children. But, I made the offer, they accepted, so I started. As I read the Scripture I was overwhelmed by the Spirit's presence. The passage took on a whole new meaning for all three of us. As I tried my best to read through my emotions the words took on a life of their own. I talked about how Jesus was trying to teach us that people who are entirely dependent on others, like little children, have the right attitude for receiving the Kingdom. Looking this now dependent elderly couple, we all sensed the new application of this idea. The second point Jesus made is that we need to receive the gift without a child receives a gift. For this long-time faith-filled couple, they receive the gift of Christ's grace freely and without question. It is just a part of their lives.
This couple...they were a living example of people who received the Kingdom like children, and even on this day they received the "now" of the Kingdom of Christ. When I was finished speaking we all sat silently, soaking in the reality of their condition, and the joy of their knowing themselves as children of the King.
From there I went to a nursing home to visit with a person in the last stages of life. It wasn't possible for us to say much to each other, so I just reached out my hand and placed it on this person's forehead. I announced the Numbers 6 Benediction, placing a touch and blessing on this child of God.
I entered this role as Hope's pastor thinking that delivering sermons would be the best part of ministry. I am now thinking that is only half right. Pastoral care...being with people who need the touch of Jesus...this is the ministry of Christ at its best.
I wouldn't give up either role...preacher and pastor. They inform each other and each task is richer when they are lived together.