I suppose that every pastor has a story exactly like the one I am about to tell, but I am also certain that, for every pastor, each of our stories is very personal. I was a new pastor, not too long out of seminary, when I got the call. A parishioner’s husband had died unexpectedly. I had been trained in Christian theology. I had taken several classes in church polity and history. I had studied extensively in the areas of worship, homiletics (sermons), and the study of the scriptures. When I received the phone call telling me of this man’s death, however, I realized that all my training and studying had not prepared me for what I was about to do. I was on my way to the new widow’s house wondering what in the world I could possibly do or say? My prayers were fervent and God’s silence was profound. I walked slowly to the door, doing all I could to delay the inevitable. I rang the doorbell. She opened the door, saw it was me, and broke into tears. I hugged her and told her how sorry I was. It felt like such a weak and obvious thing to say. Others had come to visit. She asked me to sit next to her, taking my hand in hers. I sat there still trying to think of words that might bring comfort, but everything I came up with sounded hollow. People came and went. I started to leave on several occasions but she kept a tight grip on my hand and asked if I would stay a little longer. Eventually, I left, feeling like an utter failure. So well trained and I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had been no help at all, just sitting there like the proverbial bump on a log. I felt miserable. A few days after the funeral I found myself going back to her house to apologize to her. I owed her that. She opened her door and, again, we hugged. What she said next staggered me: “Thank you so much, Steve, for everything you did. I couldn’t have gotten through this without you.” What? I had just sat there when she needed me the most. I told her I felt as if I had let her down. “Steve, you sat beside me the entire time and that said more to me than any words you could have said. Thank you.” I was stunned. Call it ministry by accident but I had made a difference just by showing up. Thank you, God!
I take the ministry of prayer very seriously. Sitting on my desk are the names and notes of the prayer requests you have shared with me from our first Sunday to our most recent Sunday. I pray for these people daily and, often, more than once. Even a cursory review quickly reveals that people you know are facing heartbreaking and seemingly hopeless situations: a neighbor having his second leg removed, a tumor full of cancerous cells, a possible stroke, a mom now in the care of Hospice, the death of a spouse, the loss of a job, a 2-year-old enduring chemo treatments, a failing marriage, and many other life crises. Do you always know what to say or do? God has put these friends and loved ones on your hearts enough for you to ask for prayer for them, but does God expect more from you? We are resurrection people and ours is a message full of hope. I wear a clergy collar to remind me that I am to be a small bit of light when surrounded by a world that can be dark and bleak. Perhaps we all need the reminder that we are ambassadors of God’s light, that we can help people walk into healing whether in this world or the next, that there is comfort now and help now and strength available for the days to come. Maybe we all can make a difference just by showing up. If you need help knowing what to say or do, let’s talk. Come see me and let’s pray about it and figure something out together. These people need what we have to offer. And we must do all we can to enter their lives in Jesus’ name and with God’s love. God bless your caring hearts! Steve