A newcomer was sitting with a circle of women as they reflected on the sermon after the service. Suddenly she said, ‘Wow! I’ve never seen THAT before!’ I asked her what she noticed. She gestured to the men heating food and setting the table for our common meal. ‘Everywhere else, men talk and women serve,’ she said. ‘Not here,’ I replied. ‘Here, people take turns. And if you stay for the meal, you might see men doing the dishes afterwards!’ Continue reading “Luke | Martha Made Whole”
A guided meditation. (Listen.)
Tonight, we are not physically gathered in a room. We cannot pass the peace with hug or handshake; we cannot wash each other’s feet. But our imaginations are not confined. So tonight, allow me to lead you in a guided meditation, and just as our Lord reaches out to us, let us meet one another in the communion of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading “Guided meditation: Jesus washes his disciples’ feet”
“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
The scripture verse above continues to guide my journey through each day. I first happened upon this verse in 1980, during a time of depression and uncertainty. I had it ‘posted’ onto my fridge door for decades, but it got lost in the couple of house moves we had. However, I never lost the essence of those words and the way they made me feel.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth … From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:14, 16)
When I was in training, I encountered many theories about what a pastor is and does. Nouns flew around: shepherd, leader, manager. Verbs, too: healing, guiding, sustaining, reconciling. Sometimes it sounded like I was supposed to be a CEO; other times, a badly trained therapist; still other times, a salesperson for the gospel. I was told to work out where I fit in the APEST model—apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd-pastor or teacher—and was told, simultaneously, that the church has no need for pastors or teachers these days. I explored Biblical metaphors—struggling Jacob, raging Jonah, and Simon’s mother-in-law, whose healing led to ministry—but the powers that be told me these reflections were irrelevant, even faintly ridiculous.
Just as the first recognized minister in Mark’s gospel is an unnamed woman in a private home, most ministry today continues to be spontaneous, informal, domestic. (Listen.)
I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law prepared for Jesus and his disciples. Pita bread and hummus? Rice wrapped in vine leaves? Dried figs, almonds, and a soft mound of goats’ cheese? Because when Jesus visits Simon’s house, Simon’s mother-in-law is sick. But although it’s the Sabbath, and although she’s a woman, and although she’s sick, Jesus touches her. She is resurrected; she gets out of bed; and, most Bible translations say, she begins to serve them: and in the Middle East, that always means food.
Pastoral care is a funny old beast and, because it sometimes looks a bit like other things, it is often confused with them. But it’s not therapy, or life coaching, or social work, or conflict management, or even spiritual healing. Instead, pastoral care is about loving you and pointing you towards the Great Physician himself: Jesus Christ.
It’s time for us to start thinking about who will do the housekeeping for the next twelve months. Many churches call these people ‘deacons.’ The word comes from the Greek diakonos, which means ‘one who serves.’ We sometimes call it ‘church leadership’, but it’s a funny sort of leadership. It’s low status, usually thankless, and only noticed when it’s not being done: like housekeeping; and, like housekeeping, many of the tasks are mundane and require no special expertise beyond a deep willingness to serve. And, like housekeeping, it takes time each week to keep things ticking over. This is what it involves: Continue reading “Housekeeping: A metaphor for church leadership”
The word translated here as ‘serve’ is translated as ‘minister’ elsewhere in the New Testament. How odd that male translation committees tend to do this when women are involved! Anyway … When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases. (Matthew 8:14-17) Continue reading “#31: Healing leads to ministry”
In this time of global pandemic, closed borders, economic collapse, isolation, and loneliness, ordinary people like us are needed to do God’s priestly work. (Listen.)
It wasn’t Donald, as he boasted and blustered and bribed his way to the top. It wasn’t Vlad, with his iron fist and steely will and heart of stone. It wasn’t Boris, as he manipulated fear and stirred up trouble and tore people apart. And it wasn’t Scottie from marketing, with his smooth talking smugness at his own success. Instead, it was the one everyone forgot, the one rambling the hillsides, the one who stank of sheep. Continue reading “1 Samuel | Not Donald, not Boris, but you and me”
They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:32-35) Continue reading “#17: Speak plainly”