Sometimes as a pastor you wonder if the message really gets through. And then there are days when you are reminded that you are part of an amazing group of people who no only get it, but truly live to serve.
At Nags Head Church we have purposefully built our ministries around and on the shoulders of our volunteers. At many churches, especially those like ours that are nowhere near mega-status, nor can be, congregants are content to let the ministries of the church be run by the pastor, or if he's fortunate enough, the pastor and staff. That mindset totally misses the dynamic of the church that the Apostle Paul shared with the Ephesian church. It's our belief that in a healthy church every part(ner) does his/her part.
That implies that every one who belongs to the local church has a part to play. Gifts, passion, skills, and life experiences all come into play, making each partner in the church different and with the potential to offer something significant when Christ has His place of lordship in their lives. And it doesn't have to be the "mature" who contribute. More often than not it is the "newbies" - those young in their faith whose enthusiasm sparks a fire under the rest of us.
All this week our church is providing shelter and meals to a group of homeless residents in our community. We do this twice a year during the winter months, part of a cooperative effort among other churches here. This ministry in our church is put together, organized and led totally by volunteers. Our small groups take on the bulk of the meals and providing chaperones who spend the nights.
Today and tonight we're in the middle of a snow storm, with winds gusting at 40 MPH and temps dipping into the low 20's. The roads are getting iced over, making driving icy and dicey. Yet, a team of volunteers came in late this afternoon ready to serve a meal they had prepared to seven men and two women who have nowhere else to go. None of our volunteers complained about the weather, or let it dampen their spirits at all. They served with gladness.
One even went back out into the storm to pick up a food item for one of our guests. He didn't have to do that. In fact, no one said, "Hey, would someone go out and pick up some tuna fish?". He just got up and and went for it.
But that's the way these folks at our church serve, not just in an outreach like this, but in all the varied ministries that are the nuts and bolts of the church. I was there tonight, more as an observer than anything else. Also because I knew there would be a great meal! But I found myself thankful for these ministers - these partners in the faith using their gifts, passions and skills to invest the life of Christ they have received into those who may or may not yet know Him.
Tomorrow the roads will be worse. But more who have committed to serving will do their best to come and do their part. Perhaps others, who have four wheel drive vehicles and have said they will step up and provide transportation if needed will do just that. But together, with hearts that seek after Christ, the job will be done to the glory of God. They see i as just doing their part.
This is one of those latter times as a pastor.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
In all of the life on planet Earth, including plant life, animal life and humanity only one species carries within each member the greatest distinctive of them all. It can’t be seen by a microscope or through DNA testing. It’s not the result of some evolutionary mutation or genetic drift. Science can’t repeat it in a laboratory. In fact, many scientists would argue it does not exist.
The foundational story of God’s creative work on earth tells us that when He made the first human He did so by crafting them in a fashion totally different than any other living creature. “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27)
So much could be drawn from that one sentence. But because today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade I’ll just focus on who we are: created in God’s image.
How is it then that animals and plants, not bearing the image of their Creator rank higher on the preservation list than those who do? How is it that in the minds of some piping plovers and sea turtles must be protected at all costs, yet ending the life of unborn humans – the only of God’s creation for which Christ died – should be no one’s business but that of a woman and her doctor? How is it?
The answer must be that somewhere we lost the sacredness of whom we are: bearers of the image of God. I don’t know when that brick in our cultural foundation was lost, but on January 22, 1973 it was chiseled out by those who should be protecting the rights of the most helpless rather than labeling them persona non grata.
As a result some fifty million Americans never got a chance to allow God’s image imprinted within them from the moment dad’s sperm hooked up with mom’s egg. Forty- one years of canceled life. That would equal two generations. Could within them have been the mind that would have found the cure for cancer or AIDS? I guess we’ll never know.
Lest you think I have taken on a political tone today, I assure you for me it is not about politics. It is about our moral and spiritual compass losing its frame of reference – its true north. The image of God was buried under the pretense of reproductive rights and convenience while we closed our minds to the rights of the unborn.
Until this greatest American injustice is reversed there is something we can do to mitigate the continued loss of lives. We can teach our children to be sexually responsible. We can instill within them values that include life being sacred. We can adopt those born to parents unable or unwilling to provide home and family. And we can pray.
Just a little over six years ago I stood in the NICU at Duke, wearing a sterile hospital gown, a sterile mask and sterile latex gloves looking in fear, awe and wonder at a tiny micro-preemie born at 1 lb. 6 oz. I had never seen anyone like that before, and it cemented in my heart and mind what had already been formed in my conscience and ethics. Life is precious. This was a living, breathing person who bore the image of God.
She’s now in kindergarten. No one gives hugs like hers. Maybe she’ll grow to come up with the cure. Maybe not. But she was given the chance to live, which is what all of us old, young and unborn deserve. Let the image of God come through.