Her eyes rimmed red as tears began to form. He sat in silence, empty of feeling having poured them out. Again.
It was quiet in Jenny’s office as we sat with our feelings, our pain. Another fatal overdose. Another life lost. Another friend, son, brother, gone. He was 28.
These times when we’ve poured ourselves out, when we feel empty of caring, these are the times we question: Is this where I should be?
I know we follow a Savior who emptied himself out but we are not him. We need a constant filling. So we gather in an office or take a walk in the bright sunshine. We pull close to another who understands this pain and we ask together if we can handle death’s sting.
Maybe this is the cross Jesus said we needed to carry.
We look for endless blessings and joy, the kind that doesn’t hurt, the kind that keeps us bubbling over. Somehow we have this notion that this is the life of following Jesus. It’s not. It may be a glimpse of heaven but on earth it’s fleeting.
That wasn’t the end of sorrow for me this week. More would come, Family would face unexpected life threatening illness and a mom would wonder how much more. It would continue to feel like a week of trials and questions we’re afraid to say out loud.
It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. Resurrection Sunday is coming and we will proclaim:
He is risen. HE IS RISEN INDEED
But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new; a servant in form and a man indeed. The very likeness of humanity, 8 He humbled Himself, obedient to death— a merciless death on the cross! 9 So God raised Him up to the highest place and gave Him the name above all.
To my friends laboring in churches that feel stagnant and wonder if they’re touching souls.
You know what the good news is? The good news is that the ministry that seems to take place the most isn’t inside the church anyway. I’m going to guess some folks don’t even know they’re ministering but God knows. That’s really what we’re about. The Salvation Army. Not Sunday morning church. That’s a club too often. But in our Adult Rehabilitation Centers and shelters and after school care and day camps and the things least likely, that’s where God’s love is being shown. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s even shown in fall festivals put on by a bunch of alcoholics and addicts, some dressing up as women any chance they get, but doing this because they want to do it for someone else. They want to see the kids laugh and squeal and try to get all the candy they can get.
Then there are Sundays like this one where a guy who is bringing the morning message starts by giving a list of what he was doing three years ago. Of stealing from his family, having black outs and shooting up at his job. He talks about the tracks on his arm that are now tracks on his heart because he let Jesus walk there and He’s left his mark.
Terrance stands in the aisle holding suitcases with labels stuck to them that say “gossip”, “lust”, “stealing”, “laziness”, and so on. He stands there as the music begins to play and he takes his baggage to the altar and he dances to Take Me to the King because Jesus dances in his heart.
Do you need to hear more? More of how ministry really looks?
It looks like Carlos standing behind the pulpit and telling us “Good doesn’t lead to God, God leads us to good.” He talks about change and discipline determining direction and that it’s not how fast you go but how strong you grow and he’s still working on it.
Jeff always gets me. He’s the one with the almost silly smile on his face, the smile that won’t go away because he remembers living under that bridge 4 years ago. FOUR YEARS AGO! He talks about how God “attracted” him to this old building and through the counselors who don’t go to our church but believe in a mighty God, how they showed him a new way to live but not before we filled his belly and gave him clean clothes. That opened his ears to listen to this new way to live and he is grateful. First to God because he’s not under the bridge anymore but under God’s grace that covers him and gives him that smile.
And you know Eric can sing. I’ve told you about his voice but today, oh, today it was something else the way he sang those words that speak of the scary, but strong, faith. That song that surrenders all to Jesus. And John learned to play it on ukulele because they both met Phil a year ago and there was something about the meeting that God used to touch all of our hearts.
I didn’t even mention John, the one who’s deaf but read the scripture this morning with his voice and hands because God speaks to us in many ways and he speaks to me through John who never lets his deafness be an excuse for not hearing the call to a sober life.
Ministry seldom looks organized. You know, in that scheduled sort of way. Sunday is when we celebrate the ministry that has happened all week. It will happen again this week and who knows how or where God’s spirit will move and be seen. Maybe He’ll move through us (if we allow him to move in us) or maybe our part is unseen and on our knees. But it’s happening. Don’t ever forget that.