One of the blessings of being a pastor is that, by virtue of my vocation, I am invited into some of the most sacred moments in a person’s life. I’ve had the privilege of being with people as they said their vows of marriage, as they’ve said goodbyes to their loved ones, and as they’ve dealt with life-changing news. It is not an easy part of my job, but it is often the most God-filled.
These times can also be personally challenging for me. Because of the love I feel for each of my congregation members, I take Paul’s words to heart: “If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it.” In the past few months this church has had an unusual amount of suffering within its membership, and because of that, I have felt that suffering.
But I am most thankful that I do not have to bear that alone. As Paul says, “EVERY part suffers with it.” Part of our mission statement says that we are called to “welcome people into a loving and caring church family,” and this congregation lives that out each and every day. I know that if someone is in need, I am only a small part of the team that is working to meet that need. This web of support extends beyond Tim and the Elders and the Crisis Committee (although each of those plays a tremendous role in offering care) to the entire congregation.
In the Bible there are several examples of leaders commissioning the flock to do the work of God. Moses gives authority to a group of people to help him watch over the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus sends out the 12 disciples to do his work in the region. And in his last words in Matthew, Jesus gives the Great Commission, to “make disciples of all nations.” The work of God was not for the leaders alone; it was for everyone to do.
I’m thankful to God that this church takes that seriously. We each were given hands and feet to use for going to others, for holding their hands, for making them meals. Pastoral care isn’t just for the pastors to do; it’s a task for all believers, to help bear each other’s burdens and lighten each other’s loads.
I want to share with you a story passed on to me recently that highlights this. Ashley, a mother living in a small town wanted to have her baby – his name was James – baptized in her home church. The problem was, because of the size of the town, everyone knew her situation: 18 years old, unwed, the father not around, no family to speak of except for her grandmother, Martha. Would the church still accept her?
Martha talked to the pastor about it after church one day. The pastor said he was glad to do the baptism, but was concerned of the effect it would have on Ashley. You see, as part of the baptism service, the pastor asks the entire extended family of the baby to stand as a show of support. Would it be embarrassing to Ashley if she only had one person standing during the service? Martha said having little James baptized was most important, so the pastor agreed.
On the day of the service, as Ashley held her baby and stood with the pastor, the pastor asked, “Who has come today to stand with this child?” Martha slowly stood up. As the pastor’s eyes returned to the prayer book to continue the service, movement in the congregation caught his eye. An Elder stood up. And then a Deacon. And then a Sunday School teacher. And the nursery attendant. And a young couple in the church. Finally, the whole church was standing in support of Ashley and her baby. James had inherited a new extended family that would love him and support him and Ashley knew she was not alone as she faced the future.
We are blessed with such a wonderful extended family in our church. We have a lot of people who are in need of our love and support. May we continue to stand with them, reminding them that they are not alone as they face the future.