Monday, April 7, 2014

Walking toward Palm Sunday... a word of encouragement for those in ministry (which means all)

This morning I knew I needed to make time to "fill up" before I did anything else in the day (after getting the kiddo off to school).

I wondered what would fill my tank today.  Yesterday was the 5th Sunday in Lent.  Next Sunday is Palm Sunday.  Last week was a beautiful, yet difficult week poured out for family and others.  This week will likely contain more pouring out as there are needs, even beyond what I can imagine.

I picked up A Guide to Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants and turned to this week's readings.

The title: "The Wounds and Sorrows of Ministry"


"Almighty God, you are the light and life of every soul and my only source of hope.  Grant that in this time of worship I may experience your transforming power preparing me for the ministry of this day.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen."

Psalm 56 is the Psalm for the week.  As I read it, there were several verses that stood out to me.  I don't know what will stand out to others as they read it. 

verse 1-- "Be gracious to me, O God"
verse 3--"when I am afraid, I put my trust in you."
verse 4--"In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid;"
verse 8--"put my tears in your bottle"
verse 13--"For you have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling, so that I may walk before God in the light of life."

Ministry (whether one is clergy or a lay person) can be demanding.  Simply because there is always something going on.  Then, add communication or miscommunication to the mix.  Or add in folks with varying ideas and agendas.  It can get wild.  I speak from observation and experience.

A reminder that we are ALL in ministry as we are all called to use our gifts to the glory of God and for the Kingdom.  We have different gifts, different callings, etc. But we are all priests, all ministers, all called into ministry into the lives around us.  Don't take my word for it, check out 1 Peter where it refers to the priesthood of all believers.  Do some searching on your own to verify that we are all called into ministry, to use the gifts God has given each of us for the Kingdom. (Maybe I'll write another post another day in more detail on this.)

And, because we are human, we all at one time or another are that person in Psalm 56:1 who tramples or oppresses someone else.  Therefore, verse 1 in Psalm 56 is a reminder, a prayer, not only for protection from others, but for ourselves, so that we won't do that to others.

I know I need filling up daily and even more frequently so that I can be the light and love of Christ to others and not my natural, nasty self.   I am grateful for silence and solitude and times of "being" that fill me up as well as times of reflection and study.  Listening to music that uplifts my heart, mind, and soul fills me often to overflowing. 

What fills you up so that you can minister effectively as you are called?

In the readings for this week, one in particular grabbed me this morning.  It is by Henri Nouwen from The Living Reminder.  It is found on pages 139-140 in the Guide.

"The minister, as a living memory of God's great deeds in history, is called to heal by reminding people of their wounded past and by connecting their wounds with the wounds of all humanity, redeemed by the suffering of God in Christ.  But what are the implications of such a viewpoint for the personal life of the minister?  The temptation is strong to ask the "how" question: How do I become a living memory of God; how do I accept and connect; how do I lift up the individual story into the divine history?"  These questions are temptations insofar as they avoid the more basic question: "Who am I as a living memory of God?"  The main question indeed is not a question of doing, but a question of being.  When we speak about the minister as a living reminder of God, we are not speaking about a technical specialty which can be mastered through the acquisition of specific tools, techniques, and skills, but about a way of being which embraces the totality of life: working and resting, eating and drinking, praying and playing, acting and waiting.  Before any professional skill, we need a spirituality, a way of living in the spirit by which all we are and all we do becomes a way of reminding.
     One way to express this is to say that in order to be a living reminder of the Lord, we must walk in his presence as Abraham did.  To walk in the presence of the Lord means to move forward in life in such a way that all our desires, thoughts, and actions are constantly guided by him.  When we walk in the Lord's presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of him.  This is what is meant by a prayerful life.  It is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence."

Yes, I realize that is a very long reading.  But, I quoted it in its entirety because it was solid and meaningful in its entirety.  What speaks to you today?  What can you take with you into this day, into this week of life and ministry?  Remember, whether you are clergy or a lay person, you are a minister.

Here is the benediction from the Guide... as you continue your journey.....

"Go forth into this day with the strong name of Jesus Christ to sustain you.  Amen."



  1. Thanks, Deb. Very meaningful. I copied a portion of the Nouwen writing. My dad is very depressed and talking once again about how he shouldn't exist as only a "burden" to his daughters. I will offer this writing to him and perhaps he will consider his purpose as a living memory of God.

    1. I hope your Dad will see his purpose as a living memory of God too! Blessings!

  2. Thanks, great thoughts in finding strength and meaning for the week ahead.