Saint John the Evangelist (Lockport, IL)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

O God, why?

In a blog I read often I found this note today regarding a friend of the author (both pastors) who has decided to leave the ministry. There are at least two thoughts running through my mind as I write this:

My heart goes out to this man and his family at this time because this decision must have been one of the hardest and most troubling he has ever made. One can only wonder what the situation was in the church he labored over and in that he finally just gave up. He could have moved on to a different church; that happens all the time. But this situation drove him completely out of the ministry!

The other theme running through my mind revolves around the tragedy of the loss of the call from God that this man originally must have felt and discerned. After much reflection on the passage from Jeremiah 20 I finally understand why Dr. West used it in his blog. It ultimately forces us to realize that God will prevail in the end. When the Word of God engages us, and God is at work in our ministry we must recognize that God is able to carry us through the tough times. Jeremiah, in the verses preceeding the section Dr. West quoted, was severely abused by the temple authorities for his prophecies of the end of the nation of Judah and the destruction of Solomon's Temple. Because of this mistreatment, Jeremiah wanted to keep quiet and stay out of trouble. But he could not keep silent because God would not let him. Jeremiah realized at this low point in his life:
But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior, so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.

I think Dr. West is saying that ministers (and all of God's people) need from time to time reflect on Who has called us, Who has enabled us, and Who sustains us. There are times when we get kicked in the head, but God's call and purpose for our lives will sustain us, just as the Word burnt in Jeremiah's bones so that he could not keep silent.

So back to my second theme. I feel great sadness and sympathy for this man. In spite of God's promises to work through us and to give us strength in our weaknesses, this minister has totally given up and is walking away. Part of me wants to say "What a waste of a man's life" but another part of me is saying at the same time "God works in mysterious ways" and "God can work mighty things through our shortcomings." This man may believe that God has abandoned him, and that his ministry was for nought. But we should pray for him because God still can use him, and I believe, wants to continue to use him and his ministry in His church:
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think--according to the power that works in you--to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
I just figured out why this blog note is bothering me. Today a family friend is being ordained to the (transitional) Diaconate in the Episcopal Church. She is now at the beginning of her public ministry. This is another public manifestation of God's call to her, and of His grace to her as she begins a new segment of her journey with God. I am sure she senses God's presence and leading; yet we have this message that this other pastor seems to have lost his assurance of God's presence in his ministry!

Contrasts like this are unsettling; I don't like to think about these things. But there are times that we have to understand that people have ups and downs. And we need to rely on God in our own lives and pray for others.

New beginnings! and unfortunate endings! All the more reason to continue to uphold our pastors and other ministers in prayer. They need to be told that we are praying for them, and we need to be diligent in our prayers that we do pray for them: as people and as priests and ministers.
Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: Send down upon our bishops, and other clergy, and upon the congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace: and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.


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