Friday, January 18, 2008

Gotta Blather A Bit

Tomorrow (actually it was today, I'm pre-dating this post by one day) is Sophie's birthday. I'll put up some photos and comments about her birthday.

Sometimes being a pastor is an extremely hard thing to do. It's hard because of love. Being a pastor is holding an office, just like a sheriff, deputy, police officer, or judge. I picked these "law enforcement" titles because it's easy for me to imagine that a deputy or police officer has to respond some time or another to a household of friends and family. A judge might have to preside over a a terrible case where he knows the perp and the victim as friend or family. But, the judge can recuse himself, and the police officer or deputy might also be able to recuse himself because of this conflict of interest.

The pastor cannot recuse himself.

Love is a wonderful thing. But it carries great responsibility. I love my wife, I'm very much in love with her. I love my children, except for the fact that some of them are growing older and would be embarrassed by me, I could hold and cuddle, make faces at them, tickle them, and enjoy them until my back gave out. I love my congregations and many of the members have become like family to me. Our kids play together, we drink each other's coffee, spend time at each other's home.

Love demands that when I do wrong, my wife or kids do wrong, that we confront each other about it. It can be very difficult, very painful, but because we love each other we need to tell each other about our sins in order to bring about repentance, confession before God, and forgiveness. Hopefully, by God's grace, the behavior will change too. But as parents know, the change may be a long time in coming.

Love demands that when my congregation members sin, many of them being friends and like family as well, that I --as their pastor-- need to confront them. Again, it is painful, and difficult. But the goal is forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.

Love sometimes places demands upon us that we can never meet, both because of circumstance and our own pathetic sinful natures.

We've had to cancel church at Mt. Olive on Sat. because it was dangerously cold (-27F Sat. morning). Nazareth and Oak Park have canceled for Sunday morning for the same reason. St. Petri has late service, and hopefully my garage will be warm enough for my car to start later in the morning.

I hate missing services because of weather. I hate missing shut-in calls because some of my family are sick and I don't want a frail shut-in to get whatever-it-is from me.

But this post isn't about canceling church.

It's about not being able to get to members who need the means of grace in time of great trouble. One shut-in, Lyle, has been recently moved to a memory ward at a nursing home, but he is having some medical difficulties. And these difficulties have caused great stress and need for his wife, family, and friends. Please keep them in your prayers.

Darrow, who had an optimistic diagnosis for cancer, has had a turn for the worse. We were over to his place shooting squirrel last Friday, today he's in the hospital fighting for his life having toxic chemicals poured through his system in the hopes that the chemicals will kill the cancer before they kill him. Please keep Darrow and his family in your prayers.

Both of these people are family, Lyle's and Darrow's wives are sisters. Some of their grandchildren will learn about their situations through this post. For those members, please call me at the church number. I'll be at St. Petri from 10am to 2pm. But I'll be home the other times of the day.

Love can be so demanding. I don't know whether to go to Darrow and his family in Rochester, or to Lyle and his family here. I do know that I have a worship service in the cold tomorrow. And, God willing, I will be there.

I want to thank Pastor Rank for being willing to go visit Darrow and his family in Rochester. Tom, God bless you, and thanks. It is such a blessed relief to know that they will have the means of grace during this time of trouble and trial.

Love can be very painful at times. As I've said previously on this blog, the 18 funerals from December to December can take a lot out of a parish, its congregations, and their pastor. Add to this a number of marital situations, life changing events (like having to be put in a nursing home or being diagnosed with cancer or a terminal disease) and the pastor can feel how much love can cost.

These are my parishoners, my congregational members, they are also loved friends and family. While I cannot recuse myself, I find great comfort that my love isn't what counts for them. What counts is the Love Christ showed for them by living without sin and dying horribly and painfully in their (our) place on the cross.

Even through this valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for God has comforted me. For all of us we have the blessed certainty that this life is not the end, but merely a short time during which we are taught to appreciate the gift of God given to us in Christ.

I wouldn't trade my vocation for anything right now. I don't have the right words all the time. I can be a stupid jerk in the kinds of questions I ask. And I can be an awkward fool in the way that I try to explain or discuss things with my members. But God has loved them so much that He gave His Onlybegotten Son to die for them. That's what counts. That's real love.

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