Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ministering to suffering people

Some have asked me what it is like to minister to suffering people. First it is an honor and privledge to minister to people who are hurting. It is a gift of grace because in those situations words are not enough, there is never the right thing to say because people are not a problem to be solved. Instead a minister comes along side and tries to enter into the place of suffering as best as one can.

In these instances the only effective ministry is a compassionate presence, it is to hold the person in love and seek to be a tangible sign of the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is why it is about grace, a person cannot simply be a compassionate presence without grace operating in and through the minister.

Also it is a place of pain to be helpless and to grieve the relative powerlessness one has and it is hard to watch someone suffer. It is also a place of joy because suffering is the home of God. God is present in all places an all times. So the minister must hold all this together in one place: suffering, powerless, joy and hope.

It sounds a lot like the Eucharist. "On the night he was betrayed"...Pain "My body broken"...Suffering "My blood shed for you"...Death "Peace by with you" says the Resurrected One.. Joy and Hope.


I noticed a few weeks ago something about fire. While it was cold I was making fires in our fireplace for warmth and beauty. It is interesting to watch a piece of wood burn that is put on hot coals. The wood sits there for a little while and then it hisses, smokes and then it catches fire.

It made me realize that this is a lot like the Christian life. A person who burns with the love of God is like a hot coal. They have the ability to help ignite those around them simply by being. It is not a program, it is simply the nature of the love of God.

These people have the ability to transform the world around them. Fr. Bede Griffiths was such a person. I have been told by those who knew him that simply being in his presence doing ordinary life was life changing. You went away changed.

This is what the church should be, a place of heat, light and life transformation.